University in Chinese initiative
The University of Ulster is to team up with a Chinese counterpart to promote the teaching of Mandarin in Northern Ireland schools.
The initiative was one of three agreements the university has signed with academics in eastern China, following the decision by the Chinese authorities to locate a Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster. The new Confucius Institute will be part of an international network aimed at fostering cultural and business links with China.
Professor Pol O Dochartaigh, Dean of the Faculty of the Arts, said of the schools' initiative: "The university has signed three agreements with Hubei Normal University, based in Wuhan in eastern China, whose specialism is education.
"The first of these will see up to 40 teachers from Hubei province each year enrolling on Master's courses in the Faculty of Arts and the Ulster Business School as part of an initiative by the Hubei provincial government to enhance the qualifications of teaching staff in that province.
"Under the second agreement, Ulster will co-operate with Hubei Normal University on a Confucius Classroom scheme for schools across Northern Ireland. Confucius classrooms operate in primary and secondary schools all around the world including Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Given China's increasing power economically, we will benefit significantly in the future if we have a schools system which produces university graduates fluent in Mandarin.
"Hubei's specialism is education, including the teaching of Chinese as a second language, and under this agreement the Confucius Institute at Ulster will seek expressions of interest in Chinese classroom schemes, with Hubei providing the teachers who will promote greater engagement in Northern Ireland with Chinese language and culture."
He added: "The third agreement will enable researchers to come from Hubei to join Ulster's new Professor of Computer Science, Hui Wang, in the development of a virtual Confucius classroom that is intended when it is fully developed to be a valuable resource for the learning of Chinese no matter where in the world you are learning."
Earlier this year, the university signed an historic agreement with the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing to set up the Confucius Institute for Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster (CINIU) in partnership with Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in south-eastern China.
CINIU, whose headquarters will be on the university's Coleraine campus but which will also have an office in Belfast, is part of a network of 370 Confucius Institutes in more than 50 countries across all continents. The institute will promote the teaching of Mandarin Chinese and study of all cultures in China but also facilitate closer cultural links between Northern Ireland and China.
CINIU, which will be formally launched next year, will also provide Northern Ireland businesses and public sector organisations with bespoke courses on Chinese business practices, China's administrative culture as well as language training.