La Trobe opens Confucius Institute

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The University has launched its prestigious Confucius Institute, strengthening China links across the higher education sector, business, government and the community.

Set up in conjunction with Chongqing University, the Institute has the support of the Chinese Government as a non-profit public body with a strong focus on Chinese language and culture. 

Its first program started in October, with a tailor-made course in beginners Chinese featuring convenient after-hours class times for students, staff  and the public – and the award of a special introductory set of scholarships.

The Institute was officially opened in November by the Speaker of the Victorian Parliament, Ken Smith MP, who has a long-standing and deep interest in China. He described it as an important stepping stone for educational, cultural and business relations between China, Australia’s greatest trading partner, and Melbourne’s north as well regional Victoria through the University’s extended campus network.

Mr Smith said 50 students from La Trobe will also have an opportunity to visit China as a result of this new initiative. ‘It’s a great project, La Trobe is a great university, and I know this institute will be a great success.’

Chinese Consul General for Melbourne, Mr Shi Weiqiang, said there was a strong desire by both countries for better communication and greater understanding.  The Institute will contribute to this and the Chinese government was pleased to provide its support, he added.

More extensive co-operation

Professor Lin Jianhua, President of Chongqing University, one of China’s oldest universities, said ‘I look forward to more extensive co-operation between out faculty and students. The world has become so small, and it is very important for people to see more of each other.’confucius-inst-plaque-unveiiling

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Rosenberg, said the Confucius Institute was a significant initiative for the University which built on La Trobe’s existing strengths in Chinese language and culture programs.

Based on the University’s main Melbourne campus, programs will be rolled out on regional campuses, with cultural events already planned for Bendigo from the middle of next year.

Professor Rosenberg said the Confucius Institute will lead to a better understanding of China by staff, students and the community in general.

‘It will provide valuable opportunities for academics on all our campuses to share ideas and experiences and enhance our reputation in promoting Chinese culture.This will lead to an increased profile for the University.’

La Trobe joins select group

student performersLa Trobe University joins a select group of 322 Confucius Institutes world-wide, ten of which are in Australia.

Professor Pei Likun, Executive Director of the University’s Centre for China Studies, said Confucius Institutes are established under the auspices of the Office of the Chinese Language Council International, an affiliate of the Chinese Ministry of Education.

She said the new Confucius Institute is based on a partnership between La Trobe University and Chongqing University in south western China, one of China’s top 39 key national universities. Chongqing is China’s most populous city, with 32 million people.

‘It is highly unusual to have more than one Confucius Institute in a city, and it is thus a privilege for La Trobe University to have been given permission to establish a third Confucius Institute in Melbourne. Part of the rationale for this has been our strong regional mission,’ Professor Pei said.

lin-and-rosenberg-at-lecternEducation in China: then and now

At an inaugural seminar before the official launch, Chongqing University’s Professor Lin Jianhua, spoke about the history of Chinese education going back 2,000 years.  Scholars in those days concerned themselves with classical literature and philosophy, sat for Imperial examinations and went on to become government officials. 

Today, he said, Chinese universities had almost 30 million registered students in higher education and there had been a dramatic increase in research output that was helping underpin the nation’s progress.  However, there was a ‘confused research culture’ that placed too much emphasis on science and technology and achieving ‘quick benefits’. 

While a ‘decent job and good life’ was clearly important for China’s young people, Professor Lin said more needed to be done to promote humanities education.  Restoring ‘the soul of the university’ was also important, so that traditional Chinese values could remain as ‘core values’, while western science, technology and management education were important tools for progress.

More details of Professor Lin’s presentation can be found on the La Trobe University Confucius Institute website.