Embassies around the world can
support their government’s soft
power intiatives through education
PHOTO: UNSPLASH / JASON LEUNG “The French
84 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #24
English, study programs, administrative procedures and on
life there,” she adds.
Influence or interference?
However, the relationship between students and embassies
that makes the most headlines is that of China’s. The coun-try
is something of a latecomer to global diplomacy, having
spent vast chunks of the last few centuries attempting to cut
itself off from external affairs. Although like many embas-sies
it too hosts cultural and business events, the country’s
control of international students abroad has attracted
China maintains that its domestic issues, among which
it includes territorial and separatist disputes such as those
of Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, are its concern
alone and a foreign state has no business so much as com-menting
on such matters.
Embassies have put pressure on institutions to prevent
events the country deems an affront to Chinese sovereignty
taking place, such as the University of Salamanca in Spain’s
Taiwan Cultural Day in 2017, which was cancelled following
an email from the local Chinese embassy.
The organiser of the event, Shiany Pérez-Chang, later pu-blished
that email online. In it, the Embassy’s office of edu-cation
affairs told the university that they were “being used
by Taiwanese authorities as a platform for their political
ideology”, that the event “would affect the university’s good
relations with China” and that they “demand your university
adheres to the ‘one-China principle’”.
It also seeks to influence foreign universities through the
CSSA (China Students and Scholars Association). CSSAs are
funded by local institutions but have come under scrutiny for
their links with Chinese embassies.
Although the beliefs of Chinese international students
about a particular issue may align with those of the go-
In Australia, the Embassy of Qatar says that it plays an
active role in the welfare of its students. Its website encoura-ges
all citizens to register with them “to enable the embassy
to contact you when necessary”.
“All of the student citizens in Australia maintain contact
with the Embassy,” says a spokesperson.
They are not alone. In the UK, the work of several embas-sies,
such as that of Afghanistan, have a much more pastoral
character, even going so far as to help students find courses
and navigate the application process for universities. This is
particularly the case when countries have high numbers of
incoming students in a country that is considered a study
destination. The London-based Thai Embassy even has a
dedicated student support unit.
The exception to this seems to be European states.
Although several have large numbers of students abroad,
embassies and government institutes – while available to
contact – do not make contact with students themselves.
Biljana Lucic of the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
based in London, says their interaction with students is limi-ted,
with the Embassy not even having information on the
number of students studying in the UK “readily available”.
“The authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina do not have
a method of collecting that information,” she relates.
However, some embassies have a focus on recruiting
students from host nations to their mother country to study,
trying to ensure two-way student links.
“The French Embassy opened a Campus France – the
French national agency for the promotion of higher educa-tion
and research – office in London in May 2019,” Aurélie
Bonal, a spokesperson at the French Embassy, tells The PIE.
“Campus France UK will be present this autumn in
many universities for study abroad fairs. Our London office
organises events and one-to-one meetings for students who
want to go to France. We offer advice on courses taught in
a Campus France
office in London in