The establishment of the Centre for Chinese Studies, at UCD at the beginning of 2006 reflects both the University’s increasing emphasis on internationalizing the student experience and the growing importance of Ireland’s relationship with China. The main objective of the new Centre is to facilitate economic and cultural ties between China and Ireland through four main areas of activity: recruiting Chinese students, offering teaching programmes to Irish students, developing research programmes, and introducing outreach activities.
Stressing the importance of each of these four elements, Dr Liming Wang, director of the new Centre, uses the analogy of a four-wheel drive vehicle and points out that each part must be in place to allow the Institute to move forward. The recruitment of additional Chinese students to UCD will be a very significant and lucrative element of the Institute’s function.
It will also contribute to one of the University’s strategic objectives, which is to become a destination of choice for the best international students with the goal that they will form 20% of the student body by 2008. Up until now, UCD has never had a planned approach to the Chinese higher education market, which is one of the fastest growing in the world. At the moment, only 150 or so Chinese students are enrolled at the University. However, Dr Wang is hoping that this number will double over the next three years and increase to between 400 and 500 by 2010, thus making Chinese students the largest overseas group at UCD. This student recruitment target is expected to be largely achieved through partnership programmes between UCD and leading Chinese universities.
For undergraduates, this will most likely involve spending a foundation and first year at a Chinese university before coming to UCD for their second and third years. At postgraduate level, meanwhile, it is expected that the students would spend a foundation semester or year in China before coming to Dublin. Formalising such programmes will take at least a year, so UCD will rely largely on agents to recruit Chinese Students for the coming year.
The Centre will also be very involved in developing degree programmes to provide Irish students with knowledge and understanding of contemporary China and the Chinese language. Among the key objectives in this area are the creation of a BA in Chinese Studies and an MA conversion programme.
While the undergraduate course will depend on funding from the Irish Government, the MA will possibly be run with a Chinese university partner. According to Dr Wang, these prorammes will be introduced next year at the earliest. In addition to these courses, the Centre has started working with schools within the University to expand existing programmes to include a Chinese element.
There has already been strong interest in the first of these, a four-year BComm with Chinese Studies, which will start this September and will include a year's study at a partner university in China. CAO applications for this course - of which there were 160, including 60 first preferences - have exceeded all expectation and the University has now increased the number of available places from 10 up to a minimum of 15. During a recent trip to China by Dr Wang and Dr Martin Butler, Director of Quinn School of Business at UCD, Three prestige Chinese universities (Tsinghua University in Beijing, Tongji University in Shanghai and Shenzhen University, which is beside Hong Kong) agreed in principle the partnership in student exchange programmes with UCD Quinn School.
The University was also recently chosen as the location for a Confucius Institute. On behalf of the Chinese Government, the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) is currently establishing 100 such institutes around the world to promote Chinese culture and language and to facilitate economic links. With very similar objectives, the new institute will work alongside the Centre for Chinese Studies. Dr Wang is currently working with senior managers in UCD and with the Hanban to develop an appropriate structure for the new institution.
In line with UCD’s objective of becoming a leading researchintensive university, the Centre intends to become an international base of research excellence in Chinese studies. Staff members will be strongly involved in helping to build and maintain a high profile for the Centre in terms of research. Dr Wang says that partners in China and in other countries will also be important in further developing the research profile of the schools. The Centre will help to facilitate this by linking with the leading Chinese universities in each discipline. Existing UCD staff, meanwhile, will be encouraged to affiliate with the Centre if they are interested in any areas relating to China.
Currently based in the Quinn School of Business, Dr Wang is also hoping to find a new home for the Centre for Chinese Studies in the next few months. In the long term, meanwhile, he hopes that the Centre will be housed in a purpose built, Chinese style building, which he believes could also become something of a landmark in the University.