Structure and Management of Confucius Institutes
Confucius Institutes are run by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Guojia Hanyu Guoji Tuiguang Lingdao Xiaozu Bangongshi), known by its abbreviation, Hanban. It is a non-profit public organization that is governed by an overseeing body made up of representatives from state ministries of the People’s Republic of China, including the State Council, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Culture. Most Confucius Institutes are a partnership or joint venture between
Hanban, a foreign university and at least one Chinese partner university. The governance and operational structures can be viewed in full on the Hanban website (Hanban 2014b) in the document entitled Constitution and By-Laws of the Confucius Institutes.
As also pointed out by Hanban on its website, the model created to support the spread of Confucius Institutes presents points of comparison with measures developed to promote other languages. It is derived from the long- established European system of national cultural institutes (Hanban 2014a):
‘Benefiting from the UK, France, Germany and Spain’s experience in promoting their national languages, China began its own exploration through establishing non-profit public institutions which aim to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries in 2004: these were given the name the Confucius Institute.’
The principal aim of Confucius Institutes is the promotion of and support for the teaching of Chinese language and culture. But as every Confucius Institute signs a specific contract with Hanban and its partner universities, the vision and mission of a given institute can vary depending on context and stakeholder input. Thus, there is a strong potential for Confucius Institutes to move beyond the basic functions of teaching language and culture. This can include areas such as the promotion of educational and cultural exchanges, teacher training, language proficiency testing based on the HSK suite of examinations (Chinese proficiency tests developed by Hanban), publishing, involvement in cultural festivals and many other forms of outreach and public engagement.
A number of Confucius Institutes have specialized in certain areas. There is a Confucius Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine at London South Bank University, the world’s first Confucius Institute in this area. There are several Confucius Institutes for Business including at the London School of Economics, the Copenhagen Business School and the Athens University of Economics and Business. In 2014, a leading German university became the first Academic Confucius Institute worldwide. The University of Gottingen, with two partners - the University of Nanjing and the Beijing Foreign Studies University - aims to focus primarily on research and technology transfer into the public domain.
A very important relatively recent development, not yet widely documented or researched, is the establishment and rapid growth of the global Confucius Classroom network. Sometimes referred to as a mini- or junior
Confucius Institute, its focus is to provide support to the pre-university sector mainly at secondary but also at primary and other levels. This support can be provided to a cluster of schools or institutes in a particular region or context. Confucius Classrooms are normally attached to a Confucius Institute and in effect report to this parent body. They usually receive a certain level of finance at least for a start-up period. The parent Confucius Institute has an agreement to provide staffing, resources, advisory and other services as required and to provide funding on a general understanding that there is matching funding. As Confucius Classrooms are implementation- and practice-focused, they are immensely valuable to front-line teaching staff and very important tools of pedagogic innovation. Their numbers are growing rapidly in certain parts of the world particularly in the US and Europe. The Confucius Classroom or similar model has not been developed by other national cultural institutes but these institutes generally provide similar services for schools, teachers and students. They meet the need for practical pedagogic back-up to teachers and students in a task-driven manner. They represent an effective form of innovation whether they operate on a solo basis or work in tandem with other bodies. Whereas Confucius Institutes were set up in 2004, the establishment of Confucius Classrooms came later and thus are in existence for a relatively short period of time. Specialist literature about them is as yet limited. While most Confucius Classrooms are based in schools and colleges, a number are also based in universities and colleges and this presents very good opportunities for future effective cross-institutional synergies.