Ireland poised for strong growth in Chinese student numbers

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan on mission to China

Minister for Education  Jan O’Sullivan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins


Clifford Coonan in Beijing

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan expects strong growth in coming years in the number of Chinese students coming to Ireland’s third-level institutes, as she began a trade mission to China.

“In terms of the numbers of students that go to the other English-speaking countries like the United States, or Britain, or New Zealand or Australia, we are quite low but we believe we have the opportunity to grow that significantly,” Ms O’Sullivan told The Irish Times in an interview in Beijing’s China World hotel on Wednesday.

After several years in which the numbers of Chinese students in China stagnated, Ms O’Sullivan said in the past year there had been a 34 per cent increase in the number of Chinese students applying for Irish students visas.

During her visit there will be 17 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed.

The first of these will be between the China Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

Others include an MoU between the Communications University of China (CUC) and DCU, and two agreements between Beijing Foreign Studies University and both Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

There are 2,700 Chinese students studying in Ireland and 2,400 in Irish institutions in China. There are also 2,400 English language students in Ireland.

“We’ve seen real growth. It’s also a two-way process with Irish students coming here,” the Minister said.

International students in Ireland are the happiest in all of Europe, according to a recent survey, something which resonates with Chinese applicants.

“Ireland has prioritised China generally. You’ve had the presidential visit, you’ve had a number of ministers, I was here last year as were five or six of my colleagues,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

During her visit she will meet various high-level Chinese dignitaries and third level institutes, and also attend the nationwide China Education Expo. It is Ireland’s fifth time to participate in the event, and the country will be represented by its largest delegation ever, comprising 17 education institutions, which is more than three times the number in 2013.

This year’s country of honour at the Expo is New Zealand, a role Ireland will assume next year.

A big selling point for Irish education in China is that all of Ireland’s universities are ranked in the top five per cent worldwide, and all will be in attendance at the fairs across China this week.

The Irish Ambassador to China, Paul Kavanagh, said having adequate representation in the world’s second largest economy was a big factor in making things work here.

“We know that the Chinese system is gratified that Ireland’s minister of education has come to China three years in succession,” said the Ambassador.