University of Ulster's China link-up full of eastern promise
The world's second largest economic power has decided to put down roots at the University of Ulster.
The Chinese Confucius Institute Headquarters has decided to establish a branch at the university aimed at fostering closer ties between the Asian superpower and Northern Ireland.
The Confucius Institute for Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster (CINIU) will develop academic, cultural, economic and social ties between the two countries.
Headquartered in Coleraine, it will be part of a network of 322 institutes in over 50 countries which promote and teach Chinese language and culture and facilitate cultural exchanges aimed at fostering trade links with China.
It is the first such venture in Northern Ireland and only the third in Ireland and will operate in partnership with the Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in south-eastern China.
UU vice chancellor Professor Richard Barnett, who signed the agreement with Hanban, the Confucius Institute HQ - an offshoot of the Chinese Ministry of Education - said the setting up of CINIU was a key moment for Chinese-Northern Ireland relations.
"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," Professor Barnett said.
"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.
"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."
Professor Shaojian Peng, president of Zhejiang University of Media and Communication, 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."
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."
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Confucius was an ancient Chinese philosopher whose moral values came to dominate over other doctrines. Confucius Institutes operate on every continent, in universities and other educational institutions.
In the UK, there are Confucius Institutes throughout the country. There are two in the Republic - in Cork and Dublin.