Speech by Consul General Zhang Meifang at the China-UK/Northern Ireland Education Cooperation Forum

On 1 May 2024, Consul General Madame Zhang Meifang attended and addressed the first China-UK/Northern Ireland Education Cooperation Forum held at Ulster University in Belfast and delivered a speech. The full text of the speech is as follows:

Your Excellency Ambassador Zheng Zeguang,

Hon.Deputy Lieutenant Prof. Alastair Adair CBE,

Hon. Speaker Edwin Poots,

Mayors, Chairs, High Sheriff of the City Councils,

Chancellor Dr. Colin Davidson

President Lei Rujin

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen :

I am very pleased to attend the China-UK/Northern Ireland Education Cooperation Forum, as it not only showcases the outstanding achievements of educational exchanges between China, the UK and NI, but also the ever-broadening prospects for future opportunities. I want to join the Ambassador in congratulating you a most successful Forum. I also wish to express my sincere appreciation to the co-organizer Ulster University and other supporting institutions, including Hubei Normal University, National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, etc for your valued contribution.

There is a long history and solid foundation between China and Northern Ireland in the field of education cooperation. Recent years have seen increased fruitful results. Here today, I want to mention just a few: the Confucius Institute, jointly established by Ulster University and Hubei Normal University has served as an important bridge linking students and teachers of over 160 schools in Northern Ireland, over the years becoming the hallmark of people-to-people relations between both nations. The Centre for China-UK Cultural and Art Exchange, co-founded by Ulster University and the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, has, since its establishment, carried out a host of activities in the fields of arts and culture, sharing the Chinese language through the media of music and the Performing Arts. Following the China-UK/Northern Ireland New Energy Innovation Forum held last April, cooperation in the field of green energy has emerged as a new highlight in the educational exchanges. Such projects as the UK-China Consortium of Engineering Education & Research (UCEER) have become an exemplary model for jointly addressing the global challenges of the climate change.

Today, we mark the 175th anniversary of the School of Art at Ulster University, we witness the establishment of the Centre for Educational, Cultural and Language Exchange between Ulster University and Hubei Normal University; and we learn of a range of Letters of Intent just signed between Ulster University and its Chinese partners. All this serves to deepen our bonds of friendship; and strengthen partnership.

Distinguished Guests,

Winston Churchill once said, "Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking and using our potential." Having said so, the Chinese Consulate is ready to continue to work with Ulster University and other institutions in Northern Ireland and China to further tap into the potentialities in building the "Giant's Causeway" of the educational exchange world, which benefits us both.

To conclude, I wish to draw your attention to the following points I want to stress:

Firstly, to continuously deepen the exchanges and cooperation between institutions of higher learning of both sides. It is my hope that universities continue to work together to strengthen cooperation across the fields of academic excellence, innovation, and research.

Secondly, to continue to learn from each other. China, the UK, and Northern Ireland each boast their own USPs in education. (China has a solid foundation in basic education, rapid development in higher education, and constantly improving levels of teaching and research. Northern Ireland is strong in innovation in higher education, with a burgeoning vocational education sector. Northern Ireland also continues to rank among the top in the UK in the primary education sector.) Both sides continue to learn from each other, and complement each other’s strength with common goals.

Thirdly, today's world is interrelated and interdependent. It is imperative that a community with a shared future for all should be built.

Those with the vision and foresight will reap the benefits of educational exchange, striving to become thinkers and practitioners of people-to-people exchange and mutual learning between China, the UK and Northern Ireland,  building a community with a shared future for generations to come.