First Minister addresses Scotland-China event at the University of Aberdeen

The First Minister addressed a conference at the University of Aberdeen exploring links between Scotland and China as the University announced it will open its own Confucius Institute.

Alex Salmond attended a lecture hosted by the University of Aberdeen and presented by Professor Lai Desheng, Dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration at Beijing Normal University.

The lecture forms part of the Scotland in Conversation with China initiative, organised by the Scotland China Education Network and the University of Strathclyde, and involving higher and further education institutes across Scotland.

The Aberdeen event attended by the First Minister was focused on Entrepreneurship Education and Entrepreneurship Practice in China.

It was a ‘taster’ event for the new Confucius Institute to be established at the University of Aberdeen following the signing of a formal agreement with Hanban, the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, in Beijing on October 31. The agreement was signed by Professor Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of the University of Aberdeen during a visit by senior delegates from the University to China.

There are around 350 Confucius Institutes around the world focussed on the delivery of Chinese language, culture and events.

The Aberdeen Confucius Institute will take the total number in Scotland to four, with others based in the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde.

The Aberdeen University Confucius Institute will be run in cooperation with Wuhan University, one of the foremost universities in China.  It will be community based, acting as a first port of call for individuals, groups and businesses seeking information about China, and, as with all Confucius Institutes, its main activity will be to provide classes in Chinese language.

The Confucius Institute will also work closely with local cultural agencies and communities to stage events and activities and will provide support to the Confucius Classrooms Initiative, a scheme which promotes learning about Chinese language and culture in schools, and forms part of the government’s memorandum of understanding, aiming to strengthen educational co-operation between China and Scotland.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Scotland and China share strong economic, cultural and educational links and the excellent work of Confucius Institutes is an increasingly important part of the bonds of friendship and understanding between our nations.

“I have had the pleasure of visiting China on three occasions as First Minister to strengthen business and education links between our two countries. Scotland is a land of innovation and invention – but to build strong, long-lasting relations, you must develop cultural understanding and friendship between people.

“It is vital that the Scottish Government, our agencies and Scotland's business and education organisations do all they can to continue advancing Scotland's relationship with China, particularly as we pursue opportunities to build growth and build a stronger Scotland."

Professor Diamond said: “We are delighted that the announcement of our Confucius Institute coincided with the visit of the First Minister’..

“The University of Aberdeen has a truly international outlook and our strong links with China are a cornerstone of our international profile.  A number of our academics across a broad range of subjects are involved in research and teaching in, or about, China and we will build on this strength in the Confucius Institute.”

The Confucius Institute will further enhance the student experience at Aberdeen. Following an extensive review of the University’s undergraduate curriculum in 2010, significant numbers of first year students have opted to study Mandarin Chinese alongside their core subjects.

The School of Education, which hosted the lecture by Professor Lai Desheng, is developing a programme which will offer opportunities all undergraduate students training to be teachers to attend workshops or seminars in Chinese language and culture, will develop learning opportunities for adults in this area, and will use its existing networks to develop innovative learning and teaching approaches in Mandarin and Chinese in pre-school centres and schools.

There will also be opportunities for exchanges and study visits for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Professor Barbara Fennell, academic lead for the Confucius Institute at the University of Aberdeen added: “The establishment of a Confucius institute in Aberdeen will foster greater understanding of Chinese language and culture.

“A great deal of academic work on China is already underway at Aberdeen but the Centre will cement relationships and the sharing of knowledge.

“The Confucius Institute will facilitate cultural encounters between Scotland and China and open cultural exchange and conversations on topics which could range from opera to oil.”