Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education and Skills, has officially opened the Beijing-Dublin International College (BDIC), a joint venture established by UCD and Beijing University of Technology (BJUT).

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Quinn said “the establishment of Beijing-Dublin International College is a concrete example of UCD’s internationalisation agenda, and indeed of the wider interconnectedness between Ireland’s higher education system and leading education institutions globally”

He went on to say that particularly strong links are being forged in China and that an important focus of his visit was to encourage those partnerships and identify new opportunities for collaboration.

The President of UCD, Dr Hugh Brady joined the President of BJUT, Guo Guangsheng, at the official opening. He spoke of the rapidity at which the venture has progressed, saying that it reflected, “the enthusiastic support we received from both the Irish Government and the Chinese authorities.”

“In 2011 Minister Quinn and the then Mayor of Beijing, Guo Jinlong, endorsed our plans for a joint international college. In February 2012, the then Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping and Taoiseach Enda Kenny witnessed the historic contract signing between UCD and BJUT and the Chinese Ministry of Education gave its approval in July 2012,” said Brady.

Under the partnership agreement the international college will offer dual degrees across a range of subject areas.  The longer-term plan is to develop a full international university, which will award its own degrees.

As the Chinese economy powers ahead with the embrace of State Capitalism, the focus of academic activity at BDIC will be on enterprise development with degrees covering science, engineering and technology, business and management, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

President Brady believes that the venture will allow Irish institutions to “gain a deeper understanding of the region, which will inform our own curriculum, especially in emerging and developing economies, and business systems in Asia.

Following China’s “opening up” numerous institutions and governments have attempted to build relations with the regime in order to benefit from the countries huge economic expansion. This has however lead to the Chinese Communist Party flexing it’s economic and diplomatic muscles to curtail criticism of the regime.

Evidence of this was seen earlier in the year when Beijing complained to the Australian government about the contents and title of a university publication, Red Rising, Red Eclipse.

Chinese diplomats complained to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University about the alleged lack of balance in the centre’s China Story Yearbook 2012.

The Chinese government also blocked internet access to the report from mainland China.  This is in line with the practice of the regime to keep a strong control on internet use and access to certain websites from within the country.

The incident was another in a growing list of clashes over academic freedom and the right to free speech between the Peoples Republic of China and various “Western” institutions.

At the end of last year a group of prominent Chinese academics wrote an open letter in which they stated that political reform had not matched the quick pace of economic expansion.

About 65 Chinese academics, lawyers and human rights activists have signed a similar letter demanding top party members reveal their financial assets, saying it is the most fundamental way to end corruption.

Again, references to the letter have been censored on the internet and in Chinese media.

-James Grannell