Working with China brings opportunities and investment to Sheffield
Sir, The Financial Times is a well-known champion of the benefits of international trade. It has led the discussion of this and related matters in important forums around the world. With that in mind, I would like to correct a misunderstanding that seems to have arisen about the role of Confucius Institutes, as I know them.
We in the Northern Powerhouse agree that the only way we can hope to be part of the prosperity that international collaboration and trade bring is to work effectively with partners around the world, including — arguably the present leader in global free trade — China. Part of a nation that prides itself on our skills in innovation, advanced manufacturing and being open to the world, we know that not being fully cognisant of opportunities for trade and investment would be folly.
As a university, we are doing our duty in this regard for industry and commerce in our own Sheffield city region, working with universities and companies in China on innovative technologies for low-carbon electric cars, quantum computing and the high-performance metals used on the Chinese space station.This in turn brings opportunities and investment back to our own region.
The Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield is key to this work. Our award-winning Confucius Institute, along with providing the language teaching to individuals and companies wishing to learn Mandarin, has played an active role in building the local industrial and commercial sectors’ trade and investment ties with Chinese partners and prospective investors and customers. This is warmly welcomed by our local chamber of commerce, city council and local enterprise partnership.
I should add that I would never countenance allowing any government — UK, Chinese or any other — to determine the content of our courses, teaching or research. That is a matter of cherished academic freedom that, as recently emphasised by our minister for universities Jo Johnson, receives 24-carat protection in UK law.
Sir Keith Burnett Vice-chancellor, University of Sheffield and Head of Science and Innovation, Sheffield City Region.
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