Mr Liu Yunshan, a member of the Central Politburo Standing Committee of the CPC, visited UCD to attend the laying of the foundation stone for the Confucius Institute at the university.
The stone was unveiled by Mr Liu, the Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Ruairi Quinn and Madam Xu Lin, the Director General of Hanban, the Confucius Institutes headquarters based in Beijing.
“This is a unique occasion,” the President of UCD, Professor Andrew Deeks said. “Our Confucius Institute is one of a few selected to be ‘model Confucius Institutes’ and the first one to have received funding from the Chinese Government for a dedicated building. The Irish Government has matched the €3 million Chinese Government contribution”.
The Confucius Institute is to be located beside the new lake at Belfield and draws its architectural inspiration from Chinese temple features a south-facing entrance opening onto water, a tiered pavilion structure with a central courtyard, which provides a flow in each direction south-north, east and west. The architects are Robin Lee/Arthur Gibney.
Madam Xu Lin, Director General of Hanban, the headquarters of the Confucius Institutes in Beijing, with Mr Liu Yunshan, and Mr Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education & Skills, turning the sod for the Confucius Institute building at UCD
In 2006, spearheaded by Professor Liming Wang, UCD partnered Renmin University to establish the first Confucius Institute in Ireland. The two Governments signed the Memorandum of Understanding concerning the capital funding for the UCD Confucius Institute in 2010, witnessed by His Excellency Mr Li Changchun during his visit to Ireland. The project was supported at the meeting between HE Mr Xi Jinping, then the Vice President of PR China and An Taoiseach, the Prime Minister of Ireland, Mr Enda Kenny in 2012. The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Ruairi Quinn, met with Madam Xu Lin, Director General of Hanban, the Confucius Institute Headquarters, in Beijing in 2012 to discuss the Dublin project.
In December 2013, the Memorandum of Agreement between the Confucius Institute Headquarters of China and UCD in relation to the Model Confucius Institute Building was signed.
Over the past eight years, the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland has worked closely with the Irish and Chinese Governments, businesses and academic institutions to strengthen the ties between Ireland and China.
Mr Liu Yunshan pictured meeting school children from Jesus & Mary College Goatstown, Dublin
Over 5,200 students undertake courses offered by the Institute every year. This breaks down into circa 550 undergraduates, 4,200 secondary school pupils from across the country from Dublin to Donegal, and 450 members of the general public. Two years ago, the Minister of State for Training and Skills at the Department of Education & Skills, Mr Ciaran Cannon, took mandarin classes at the Institute.
In addition, the UCD Confucius Institute organises a number of cultural events such as the annual Spring Festival Gala, and the Chinese Film Festival for the public, each year.
“From our point of view, setting up a Confucius Institute here in Dublin provides both nations with the opportunity to exchange culture, language and ideas, to open doors to education and research collaboration and to explore opportunities in enterprise and innovation.” Professor Deeks said. “We already provide training in doing business in China for Irish companies heading off there and with our own building we will be able to do considerably more.”
UCD currently has 600 Chinese students studying in Dublin including more than 90 Chinese Scholarship Council students, China’s elite scholars who are funded for overseas graduate studies by the Chinese Government, enrolled for PhD. Chinese students now make up 10% of the 6,000 international student population at UCD. “When I came to UCD in 2006, there were around 90 Chinese students here. So, having the Confucius Institute is certainly a reason to come to UCD – especially for the social and cultural programmes alongside academic supports such as our PhD forum.” Professor Liming Wang said.
Renmin University in Beijing, UCD’s academic partner for the Confucius Institute, is one of China’s top 10 universities and UCD already had academic connections in business and law.
UCD also provides degree level programmes in China including a joint programme in Computer Science with Fudan University in Shanghai, an exchange programme for the Bachelor of Commerce international business students with the Peking University Guanghua School of Management and further educational partnerships with 12 Chinese universities. UCD and the Beijing University of Technology (BJUT) established the Beijing-Dublin International College (BDIC) in 2012, which offers students dual degrees from UCD and BJUT.
There are some 450 Confucius Institutes at various universities around the world.