The Confucius Institute for Scotland in the University of Edinburgh is a national centre to promote educational, economic, and cultural ties between Scotland and China.
Set up with Sino-Scottish Government backing and partnered with Fudan University in Shanghai, the centre was established under an initiative taken by Hanban – the Chinese Government department responsible for promotion of Chinese language overseas.
The Confucius Institute for Scotland is one of more than 450 Confucius Institutes around the world. The principal remit for Confucius Institutes is the promotion and development of Chinese language and culture. Each institute determines its own programme of activity based on market conditions.
The key objectives for the Confucius Institute for Scotland are:
- to help develop effective Sino-Scottish business, cultural and academic links
- to offer an extensive programme of Chinese language training
- to act as a bridge between Scotland and China, aiding understanding and facilitating engagement
- to be a major point of reference for Sino-Scottish relations in the areas of education, business and culture
- to work with other stakeholders to develop greater awareness of China in Scotland
The Confucius Institute for Scotland also builds on existing links within the University of Edinburgh to various academic and cultural institutions in China. Its aims are to strengthen and expand these cultural and academic interactions as well as to explore and build new possibilities for exchange and collaboration.
The agreement to establish the Confucius Institute for Scotland was signed in summer 2006, shortly after which work began to refurbish Abden House, a baronial mansion in the University of Edinburgh, as the prestigious headquarters building for the Institute. Professor Natascha Gentz, Chair of Chinese in the University, was appointed as Director of the Institute. She rapidly developed an outreach programme and working in partnership with University staff and external agencies 2007 saw ‘Cinema China’ launch across Scotland.
With the appointment in of administrative staff and the arrival of the first language teacher from China, 2007 was a milestone year for the Institute, which was recognised with the Institute receiving an Award for Excellence in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People in the second Confucius Institute Network Conference.
Since opening in 2007 the Institute has received six awards of excellence from Hanban for the quality of its work and the impact of its outreach programmes. In 2008, the Institute coordinated the ten-month long ‘China Now in Scotland’ festival and significantly increased its programme of language classes. December 2008 saw a second Award for Excellence being given to the Institute. Additional Awards for Excellence followed in 2009 and 2010 culminating in a Gold Medal Award for Outstanding Contribution which was awarded in December 2011 with an additional award for Excellence being given also in 2012. In 2014, the Institute was one of only ten worldwide to receive a special pioneer award in recognition of its consistently well run operation and contributions.
Productive collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and China stretches back at least a century and a half.
The Confucius Institute for Scotland will work to continue the University’s long tradition of innovation and internationalism. This will be done by working in association with appropriate colleges and schools within the University and with other Scottish educational bodies. Activities will include:
- promoting scholarship relating to China
- developing senior visiting fellow programmes
- supporting specific programmes of research
The first Chinese person to graduate from a European university was Huang Kuan, who received a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh in 1855. He was awarded Doctor of Medicine in 1857. His statue stands today in the ground of the Confucius Institute.
Since that date there have been a number of outstanding Chinese alumni of the University including:
- The late Professor Huang Kun, who worked with Max Born, the Edinburgh Nobel prize-winner in Physics, and who received the 2001 Supreme Scientific and Technological Award from President Jiang Zemin for his pioneering work in solid state physics;
- Professor Yang Liming, a major figure in nuclear physics in China;
- Professor Zhong Nan-shan, who identified the SARS virus, and who received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh in Beijing in March 2007
Based in a grand baronial-style mansion adjacent to the University’s Pollock Halls of Residence, Abden House has been specially refurbished to create a fitting home for the Institute. The Institute houses a library, class and lecture rooms plus office accommodation. Abden House also offers superbly decorated drawing and dining rooms on the ground floor for hospitality and functions. Visitors and students alike will enjoy the superb location with access to beautiful gardens and magnificent views towards Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s famous extinct volcano.
These features combine to ensure that the Institute is a most impressive location, not only at which to study, but also one at which to host, organise or offer Sino-Scottish meetings, conferences and social events.