THE University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus has been chosen as the location for a brand new institute of learning aimed at forging closer links between Northern Ireland and China.
The Confucius Institute for Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster, or CINIU as it will be known, will work to develop academic, cultural, economic and social ties between the two countries.
The Coleraine campus was selected by the Confucius Institute Headquarters to establish the prestigious centre as part of a 322 strong network covering more than 50 countries. Each one is charged with promoting and teaching the Chinese language and culture, facilitating cultural exchanges and fostering trade links with China.
The institute will operate in partnership with the Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in south-eastern China.
University of Ulster Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, visited China last month to attend an official signing ceremony with Hanban, of the Confucius Institute HQ - an offshoot of the Chinese Ministry of Education.
At the high-level meeting, he described the setting up of CINIU, named after the Ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, as a “seminal moment for Chinese-Northern Ireland relations.”
He said: “The University of Ulster is delighted Hanban has chosen our bid to establish a Confucius Institute in Northern Ireland, based in Coleraine but operating across all our campuses.
“We are also delighted to team up with the respected Zheijiang University of Media and Communication and look forward to working forward to working with our colleagues there.
“Confucius Institutes not only promote the teaching of Chinese language and culture but facilitate the training of language teachers, cultural and academic exchanges and research into China’s education system, economy, the arts and society,” said the Professor.
“In doing so, they have become a vital cog in the relationships China builds with the countries in which they operate.
“The Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster will also act as a catalyst for the further development of business links between China and Northern Ireland. We look forward to working with the business community to ensure that Northern Ireland gains maximum benefits from this exciting new initiative.
Professor Shaojian Peng, president of Zhejiang University of Media and Communication, also welcomed the setting up of the CINIU.
“Zheijiang University of Media and Communication is delighted to work closely with colleagues in the University of Ulster and is very excited about our partnership,” Professor Peng said.
“We very much look forward to the relationship between China and Northern Ireland flourishing through the work of the universities through CINIU across all levels – academically, commercially and culturally.”
Confucius Institutes operate on every continent, in universities and other educational institutions. In the UK, there are Confucius Institutes in the universities of Edinburgh, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Wales at Lampeter, Central Lancashire, London South Bank and the London School of Economics.
There are two Confucius Institutes on the island of Ireland, based at University College Cork and University College Dublin.
Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, explained: “CINIU’s mission will be to work with government, business and academia to enhance Northern Ireland’s profile in China while promoting a greater interest in this part of the world in Chinese language, culture, society and business.
“CINIU has been set up with an initial five year plan and we expect by 2016 it will have made a significant contribution to strengthening Chinese-Northern Ireland relations.”
Independent MLA, David McClarty, said: “The decision to base its operations within the Coleraine Campus is a positive commitment to the area and invites exciting future prospects.
Alliance councillor Barney Fitzpatrick, added: “I believe that it is vitally important for us to develop strong international, cultural and trade links with China and this agreement will help us to deliver that aim.”
The Confucius Institutes are named after the internationally renowned 5th Century BC philosopher, Confucius, who lived in Ancient China more than 2,500 years ago. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity.