By Priyanka Sahoo/The Hindustan Times
Mumbai, October 9: The Confucius Institute at the University of Mumbai (MU) will have to seek a nod from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs for academic projects, according to a letter issued to universities and institutes by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
The UGC has asked universities to get approvals from the central government before offering courses in association with any Chinese institutions.
“In addition to other clearances, prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs must be taken by all the academic institutions and universities before signing of MoUs [memorandum of understandings], educational exchange programme, agreements, joint declaration of intent or letter of intent with Chinese institutions or universities,” read the letter that was issued on October 1.
The new rule is also applicable to existing institutions teaching Mandarin said the letter.
Meanwhile, the fate of the students of the Confucius Institute in Mumbai remains uncertain. If the approval from the central government does not come through, the institute might have to shut down. The institute is a part of the global chain of Confucius Institutes, a non-profit public institution aligned with the Government of People’s Republic of China, promoting Mandarin and Chinese culture. The Mumbai chapter, set up in 2013, is one of the two such institutes in India.
The institute offers a host of short-term and long-term courses including certificate and diploma courses. In July 2013, during MU’s foundation day, dignitaries from China’s Tianjin University of Technology had visited Mumbai for the inauguration. As part of the programme, a few students from MU had received scholarships to study in China and learn their culture, including the language and martial arts.
Vibha Surana, director of the Confucius Institute of Mumbai, did not respond to calls and messages. University pro vice-chancellor Ravindra Kularni said, “The letter from UGC has been forwarded to the departments. The UGC has asked the university to be careful while going into any partnerships with Chinese institutes. We are evaluating if the rule is applicable to existing centres.”
UGC’s announcement assumes importance in the backdrop of the geopolitical relationship between India and China. In December last year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had proposed setting up of more Confucius Institutes across India.
The new guidelines are also important in the context of the allegations of ‘foreign interference’. Global reports have emerged alleging that Confucius Institutes were under investigation for ‘interference with free speech on campuses and spying on students’.
China has said that the institutes promote learning of the Chinese language. News agencies have reported that last month, the New South Wales Department of Education banned the programme at public schools, with another state government mulling a ban.
Last year, a new centre offering courses to learn Mandarin was set up at MU’s Kalina campus and the rule is likely to affect this institute as well.
(The featured image at the top shows Confucius Institute at Edinburgh University)