17:02 GMT17 February 2020
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    If the two Ivy League schools refuse to hand their foreign donors-related information to the US Department of Education, a request will be sent to the country’s Justice Department which may lodge civil or criminal action.

    The US Education Department has opened a probe into Harvard and Yale after the two American universities’ alleged failure to disclose at least $6.5 billion in foreign funding from a number of countries, including China and Saudi Arabia.

    The Ivy League schools are accused of soliciting money from foreign governments and companies which are at loggerheads with Washington and potentially seeking to steal research secrets and “spread propaganda".

    As far as Yale is concerned, it is suspected of failing to report at least $375 million in foreign funding between 2014 and 2017, according to the Education Department materials obtained by the WSJ.

    The documents referred to the two universities as “multi-billion dollar, multi-national enterprises using opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue”.

    Harvard and Yale told the WSJ Journal that they are working on responses to the Education Department, which in turn in letters to the two Ivy League schools on Tuesday demanded records detailing any contacts with foreign entities.

    Commenting on the matter, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that “this is all about transparency”.

    “If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom. Moreover, it's what the law requires”, he added.

    DeVos was apparently referring to the Higher Education Act’s  Section 117 which, in particular, stipulates that American Title IV-eligible colleges and universities should twice a year report gifts from, and contracts with, any foreign source that exceed $250,000 in value.

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