The University of Kansas has a long history of responsible engagement with China, as well as a strong Chinese language and culture educational outreach effort across the State of Kansas. As such, KU has decided to continue its work in these areas outside the structure of the Confucius Institute.
KU’s Confucius Institute, which opened in 2006, provided K-12 Chinese language instruction and cultural enrichment to schools across the state, offered training in Chinese language and culture to businesses and coordinated cultural events for the public.
The university remains fundamentally committed to this work and believes that strong engagement with China is critical to U.S. higher education and to our mission to serve the state. However a Confucius Institute is not a necessary component for KU to productively engage with China, support collaborative faculty research, and prepare students.
While the Confucius Institute will close in January, KU will continue to support ongoing Mandarin Chinese language programs for K-12 students in Kansas through the academic year, assisted by visiting student intern instructors from China through the university’s partnership with Central China Normal University (CCNU).
The decision to move forward without a Confucius Institute is related to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2018, which restricts access to U.S. Department of Defense funds for universities that host Confucius Institutes. It does not reflect an end to our academic commitments in China or represent a shift in KU’s institutional view of the importance of research and teaching related to Chinese language and culture. KU’s partnership agreement with CCNU, or other academic institutions, is not affected by the NDAA. KU’s relationship with CCNU remains strong, just as our other partnerships with Chinese institutions continue to expand and become more profound.
I appreciate the exceptional work that Confucius Institute Executive Director Sheree Willis has done. She has expanded K-12 language instruction in Mandarin through the Kansas City metro and the Kansas school system, and helped meet both increased student and parent demand as well as the critical national need in language expertise for Mandarin. She will continue to be a part of our university community as KU builds upon its existing work and explores new opportunities to enhance KU’s engagement with China and support of academic and cultural collaboration and exchange.
During the spring semester, leaders in the School of Education, International Affairs and this office will work with Kansas school districts and campus partners to identify opportunities to continue Chinese language and culture instruction for Kansas schools beyond the 2019-2020 Academic Year.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor