Chinese students now comprise up to 10 per cent of the non-EU student population at UCD, and the proportion is growing, the university revealed yesterday on the visit of one of the most senior members of China’s ruling party.
Liu Yunshan, a member of the central politburo standing committee of the Communist Party of China, was laying the foundation stone for the university's new Confucius Institute.
He is meeting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore today for trade talks as part of the three-day visit.
UCD president Prof Andrew Deeks said: "Our Confucius Institute is one of a few selected to be 'model Confucius Institutes' and the first one to have received funding from the Chinese Government for a dedicated building."
The Government has matched a €3 million Chinese government contribution for the project, which gives the institute a much larger footprint on campus after it was opened in 2006.
The Chinese government has set up more than 400 such institutes worldwide since 2004 as a means of promoting Chinese culture and language and exercising “soft power” within host countries.
Its insistence on locating the centres on university campuses has proved controversial and has sparked protests, most recently in Toronto, Canada, where some academics and post-primary teachers have questioned whether the Confucius Institute is consistent with academic freedom.
Host universities say discussions about issues such as human rights are not excluded from the institutes.
Advocates liken them to European cultural promotion organisations such as the British Council or Alliance Française.