A FIFTH Scottish university has signed an agreement to strengthen educational ties with China as a government row about teachers’ visas continues.
Heriot-Watt University will host a Confucius Institute for Business and Communication, which focuses on Chinese language and culture.
The announcement comes one day after First Minister Alex Salmond accused the UK Government’s Home Office of sabotaging the wider Scottish Government-backed scheme.
Visas were refused for two Chinese teachers trying to return to Scotland for the second year of a teaching programme run by the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools at Strathclyde University.
The First Minister spoke out again as he announced the new partnership, following a meeting in Beijing with Hanban, the Chinese government-linked organisation charged with promoting learning and language across the world.
Mr Salmond said: “Today’s announcement will make Scotland the most successful Confucius country in Europe, making it all the more imperative that we resolve the visa issues currently being experienced by two Chinese teachers looking to return to Scotland and help our children learn in our network of Confucius classrooms.
“During my discussions with Hanban today, I was able to assure them that the Scottish Government will do all it can to remove the nonsensical obstacles being placed in the way of these teachers returning to Scotland’s Confucius classrooms by the UK Border Agency.”
The Heriot-Watt agreement will complement the Scottish Government’s aim to increase trade with China, according to Mr Salmond.
“I am absolutely delighted that the hard work of all the staff and students at Heriot-Watt has paid off and they can now celebrate this outstanding success as they prepare to join a network of 350 similar institutes around the world,” he said.
“The Heriot-Watt application was hugely innovative, with a focus on promoting Chinese language for business and Chinese business culture in Scotland. Its work will clearly complement the aims and ambitions Scotland has in increasing trade with China through a greater understanding of our respective cultures.”
Gillian Hogg, deputy principal for external relations at the Edinburgh-based university, said: “Hanban has an excellent record of promoting Chinese culture and language and we look forward to joining the worldwide network of Confucius Institutes.”