A Confucius Institute was opened today (Friday 27 September) at the University of Aberdeen by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond MSP, in the company of distinguished guests from China.
The First Minister joined senior representatives of the UK Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Consulate in Scotland, Wuhan University, and the Principal and guests of the University of Aberdeen, for the afternoon of celebration.
The aim of the Institute is to further interest and cultural exchange between the University, communities, schools, individuals and businesses of north-east Scotland and the People’s Republic of China, and to promote educational, economic, and cultural links.
The Confucius Institute of the University of Aberdeen, based at 17 High Street in Old Aberdeen, is a partnership between Aberdeen and Wuhan University. It joins of a network of approximately 350 similar Institutes around the world, supported by Hanban, the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. The Aberdeen Institute takes the number in Scotland to four, joining those based at the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde.
A primary purpose of the Institute is to teach the Chinese language. As part of this, Aberdeen will have the opportunity to enhance the existing provision for free lessons in Mandarin. The Institute will also organise cultural activities, including lectures and exhibitions, and support local businesses with information and assistance in engaging with Chinese markets.
Mr Salmond officially launched the Institute at a short ceremony on Elphinstone Lawn, assisted by Mr Shen Yang, Minister Counsellor for Education at the Chinese Embassy; Professor Li Xiaohong, President of Wuhan University: and Mr Li Ruiyou, Consul General at the Consulate of China in Edinburgh.
Also in attendance from Wuhan were Professor Cheng Xuemeng, Director of the International Office; Professor Zhang Guoqing, Dean of Chinese Affairs who will be Co-director of the Aberdeen Confucius Institute together with Professor Barbara Fennell of the University of Aberdeen; Professor Ren Xiaojin, Vice Dean of the Wuhan School of Foreign Language and Literature; and Miss Anna Luo, Director of European and Asian Affairs. Additional representatives of China’s embassy in London were Mr Chen Wei, First Secretary; and Mr Sun Min, Second Secretary in Education. Mr Chen Tongdu, the chief of the UK Hanban office was also be in attendance.
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The Scottish Government is committed to strengthening the bonds between Scotland and China, through academic and cultural collaboration, alongside continuing governmental and business exchange.
“I’m delighted to open this newly-established Confucius Institute, which is the latest partnership to be forged between Scotland and China for the mutual benefit of our citizens.
“Our China strategy has a clear and specific objective to expand and deepen education links between our two nations. I warmly welcome the commitment of the University of Aberdeen and Wuhan University to ensuring that, collectively, we achieve that shared goal.”
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Ian Diamond said: “Our strong links with China are a cornerstone of our internationalisation strategy. We are honoured to welcome our distinguished guests today, and delighted that our First Minister is formally opening a Confucius Institute to serve the communities and businesses of the north-east of Scotland.
“This builds on many years of fruitful cooperation with the University of Wuhan and indeed with our wider academic and cultural colleagues in China, with whom we enjoy growing research partnerships which are aimed at tackling challenges of today’s global society, including energy, health and the environment.
“Here in Aberdeen we benefit hugely from our Chinese staff and student community. The Confucius Institute will further enhance their experience in Aberdeen, helping us build on the growing interest in local communities and businesses in learning more about China, its language and culture, and meeting the growing demand from students choosing to add Mandarin to their core subjects, and those still in school who are keen to get this advantage early.”
Professor Barbara Fennell, Professor in Language and Linguistics who will co-direct the Aberdeen institute added: “We at the Confucius Institute of the University of Aberdeen are looking forward immensely to the challenge building capacity in Chinese with our schools, school teachers, students, businesses and the wider community.
"We look forward to helping bring Scotland and China closer together and to demonstrating that Aberdeen University has an important role to play in global education.”
During the visit the First Minister and Chinese visitors saw some of the University’s Chinese collections on display in the reception area of the new Institute, and viewed the small Chinese garden being created at the rear.
Music was be provided by former Aberdeen student Louise Rossiter, whose composition 我们的歌 (Our Song ) was inspired by a visit Louise made to China, supported by the University of Aberdeen, the Scotland China Education Network, and De Montfort University.
Other highlights of the afternoon were children from Danestone Primary School singing children's songs in Mandarin, and displays of Tai Chi by members of Aberdeen’s Five Winds School.
More information is available on the website of the Confucius Institute of the University of Aberdeen www.abdn.ac.uk/confucius/