Col­lege to en­hance intl stud­ies

Kun­ming in­sti­tu­tion seeks to pro­mote ex­changes with neigh­bors in the re­gion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By HU YONGQI and LI YINGQING in Kun­ming

Yun­nan Univer­sity, the most pres­ti­gious school in the prov­ince, is to boost its in­ter­na­tional stud­ies by build­ing a more-di­verse cur­ricu­lum and forg­ing closer ties across South and South­east Asia.

That is the mes­sage from its pres­i­dent, Lin Wenxun, who has pledged to make the best of Yun­nan’s ge­o­graphic ad­van­tage to de­velop in­ter­na­tional stud­ies with the as­sis­tance of lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion such as Viet­namese, Lao­tian and Thai.

The col­lege in Kun­ming has en­joyed an enor­mous ad­van­tage in the prov­ince, which shares a bor­der of about 4,000 km with Viet­nam, Laos and Myan­mar.

In ad­di­tion, the univer­sity can also ben­e­fit from ef­forts to fur­ther pro­mote ex­changes with coun­tries in the Greater Mekong Sub-re­gion (GMS), which in­cludes Thai­land and Cambodia.

This year, 948 of the more than 1,700 for­eign stu­dents re­ceived gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ships at Yun­nan Univer­sity.

The num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents is ex­pected to in­crease to 4,000 in five years, Lin said.

The univer­sity has more than 100 spe­cial­ists for in­ter­na­tional stud­ies and also pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion in some rarely used lan­guages in South­east Asian coun­tries.

“How­ever, the next step for my univer­sity is to in­te­grate a coun­try’s lan­guage into the over­all stud­ies,” Lin said. “In the big pic­ture, the in­ter­na­tional stud­ies will em­brace all fields for re­search­ing a par­tic­u­lar coun­try.”

The prov­ince has 26 eth­nic groups and en­joys clean air and well-pre­served nat­u­ral land­scapes, and Yun­nan Univer­sity has been striv­ing to es­tab­lish its lead­ing role in eth­nic and eco­log­i­cal stud­ies.

More im­por­tantly, some of th­ese eth­nic­i­ties share the same ori­gin with eth­nic groups in the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries — Myan­mar, Laos and Viet­nam. Hav­ing the same lan­guage and cus­toms will en­dow the univer­sity a nat­u­ral in­flu­ence in the three neigh­bors.

The univer­sity has spent 10 mil­lion yuan ($1.7 mil­lion) to in­te­grate and up­grade the in­ter­na­tional stud­ies depart­ment, Lin said.

More­over, Yun­nan Univer­sity has sent a num­ber of teach­ers to coach Man­darin in Bangladesh, Iran and Myan­mar. In Bangladesh, 28 teach­ers from the school have been pro­vid­ing Chi­nese classes at North South Univer­sity.

“The teach­ers have worked for the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute for years and also func­tion as a base for my univer­sity. When visi­tors from Yun­nan ar­rive in Dhaka (the cap­i­tal of Bangladesh), they can con­tact lo­cal re­searchers and of­fi­cials,” Lin said.

Lin has ap­proved fund­ing for a plan to pub­lish two books about Bangladesh this year.

At North South Univer­sity, a re­search center has also been es­tab­lished to pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­changes with Yun­nan Univer­sity and other in­sti­tutes in China.

Yun­nan has sev­eral in­ter­na­tional rivers that closely con­nect the prov­ince and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. The Lan­cang River flows through the Xishuang­banna Dai au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture in the south, where it be­comes the Mekong River and con­tin­ues through five other GMS coun­tries.

The Nu­jiang River in western Yun­nan flows south into Myan­mar and be­comes the Sal­ween River. Lin said es­tab­lish­ing a re­search in­sti­tute on multi­na­tional rivers is one of his top pri­or­i­ties in the next sev­eral years.

Un­der­stand­ing neigh­bors

The univer­sity also per­forms the role of a think tank.

Yun­nan has been des­ig­nated by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment as the fron­tier for re­form and open­ing-up in south­west­ern China.

It’s in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to have a full un­der­stand­ing of neigh­bors in the re­gion, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said at a con­fer­ence on diplo­matic work in­volv­ing neigh­bor­ing coun­tries in Oc­to­ber.

The univer­sity will set up a so­cial re­search center for neigh­bor­ing coun­tries this month to fol­low new de­vel­op­ments in South and South­east Asian coun­tries as a ref­er­ence for gov­ern­ment poli­cies, Lin said.

Mean­while, Lin also has shown en­thu­si­asm for pub­lic diplo­macy. Yun­nan Univer­sity holds a large num­ber of lec­tures by for­eign pro­fes­sors and schol­ars, and Lin said the school will in­vite more schol­ars from South­east Asia.

The school will also send its soc­cer team to play games with col­leges in the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

“I strongly rec­om­mend the fac­ul­ties go abroad to meet teach­ers in other coun­tries, es­pe­cially phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers or ath­lete coaches. Sports are a very good way to de­velop friend­ships and have in- depth com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” he said.

On April 20, Yun­nan Univer­sity cel­e­brated its 90th an­niver­sary and held ac­tiv­i­ties to ex­plore the univer­sity’s his­tory.

“Our pre­de­ces­sors cre­ated a strong tra­di­tion, and my col­leagues and I will con­tinue the en­ter­prise to en­hance the in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion of Yun­nan Univer­sity with hard work and sin­cer­ity,” Lin said. Con­tact the writ­ers at huy­ongqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn and liy­ingqing @chi­nadaily.com.cn

HU YONGQI / CHINA DAILY

Till Kuentel­camr (right), a 31-year-old stu­dent, learns tai chi moves from his Chi­nese teach­ers at Yun­nan Univer­sity in De­cem­ber.

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