Promoting awareness of China

The University of Saskatchewan, in partnership with the Saskatoon Public School Division, has been approved to host a Confucius Institute on campus.

By Colleen MacPherson

Tom Wishart, special advisor on international initiatives, said the institute will promote awareness of Chinese culture, language and history to the university community and city of Saskatoon, and send a strong signal to Chinese students on campus.

"This will be the 13th Confucius Institute in Canada," said Wishart. "It is a pretty significant deal because it will raise our international profile. China is a superpower and a major partner of the U of S and Saskatchewan. We expect it to become even more important to us in terms of student recruitment and research partnerships, so it is a big part of our engagement strategy with China."

The U of S application was approved by Hanban, a Chinese non-governmental organization that provides matching funds to cover start up and operating costs for Confucius Institutes around the world.

"Our application was sponsored by the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), a highly ranked and very important Chinese university. BIT is one of our major international partner institutes, and our intent is to use the Confucius Institute as a springboard for deepening and broadening our engagement with them," he explained.

"But it goes beyond research partnerships. Internationalizing the university and the student experience is a fundamental priority and this is a great opportunity for our students to learn about Chinese culture, language and history without stepping off campus. Hopefully it will intrigue them to travel and study in China. It is important to campus because about 40 per cent of our international undergraduates are Chinese and the Confucius Institute will be part of our welcoming activities," said Wishart. "Members of the general public will be strongly encouraged to participate in the programs and services of the institute."

Plans for opening the institute are just now getting underway. "The Hanban will provide up to $150,000 that the university will match. The size of the operation will depend on demand for its services and courses," said Wishart, "but initially I anticipate a staff of about six people including a director."