Children from Chinese families had an exciting day on Tuesday 4 October, when they were part of the welcome to the Confucius Institute which was officially opened at the University of Glasgow by First Minister Alex Salmond MSP.
The Institute –a partnership with China’s prestigious Nankai University– is part of a network of more than 350 around the world, supported by the Chinese government to spread awareness, understanding and appreciation of Chinese language and culture.
Funded by the Chinese National Office of Chinese Language Council International – known as Hanban – the main purpose of the Confucius Institute is to teach the Chinese language. It will also organise cultural activities, including lectures and exhibitions and provide information and support for businesses in Scotland planning to operating in China.
The ceremony in the University’s Bute Hall was attended by Li Ruiyou, Chinese Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Scotland, and Xiaogang Tian, Minister Counsellor for Education, Chinese Embassy London.
Mr Salmond said: ‘The promotion of the educational, economic and cultural ties between Scotland and China are further strengthened by the creation of the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow. The work being done in partnership with Nankai University will support the Scottish Government’s China Plan through support for Confucius Classroom hubs and for Sino-Scottish business links.
‘During the past two years, I have had the pleasure of visiting China twice to reinforce this bond and I am greatly looking forward to returning later this year. It is vital that the Scottish Government, our agencies and Scotland’s business and education organisations continue to do all they can to advance Scotland’s relationship with mainland China and Hong Kong, particularly as we pursue opportunities to build growth and therefore a stronger Scotland.’
Professor Jane Duckett, Director of the Confucius Institute, said: ‘Our aim is to increase understanding of China, its fascinating language, and its rich culture. China is playing an ever more important role in the world. Within the next decade or so, it will be the world’s biggest economy and it will become an increasingly important trading partner and investor for Scotland and the UK. It is therefore essential to Scotland’s future economic success that we understand China in all its diversity and are able to communicate with its people.
She continued: ‘The Confucius Institute will make a significant contribution to the Scottish Government’s China Plan through support for Confucius Classroom hubs and for Sino-Scottish business links. It is a symbol of Glasgow’s and the West of Scotland’s engagement with China and will be an important source of support for that engagement across education, the arts and business.’
The Confucius Institute builds on long-standing research collaborations focused on social sciences, arts, business and chemistry, between the University of Glasgow and Nankai University in the major northern city of Tianjin.
The focus of the Institute’s programmes will be on contemporary Chinese society and culture, promoting understanding between young people in Scotland and China, and supporting links between the cities of Glasgow and Tianjin.
One of the first events organised by the new Institute is a six-week exhibition of art works by Professor Fan Zeng, one of China’s most famous artists, whose traditional ‘splashed ink’ and figure drawings are hugely popular in China. The exhibition will run until 20 November in the Kelvin Gallery of the Hunterian Museum.
The Confucius Institute is located in the John McIntyre Building on the University’s Gilmorehill Campus. For more information visit www.gla.ac.uk/about/confucius/ and see a video of the children of Glebe Primary School, Irvine who performed an umbrella dance for the opening ceremony on University’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/glasgowuniversity
Head teacher Francine MacKenzie of Glebe Primary told this website:’The children had a wonderful day at Glasgow University at the opening of the Confucius Institute. One parent phoned me the next morning to say thank you for giving her son the best opportunity of his life so far. The Chinese families whose children attend this school, consider themselves Scottish and are very pleased that we celebrate their other culture. We take full advantage of every opportunity to learn of the richness of Chinese culture.’ The school has already sent teachers to visit China and is about to send another one to study Mandarin.
Students with a giant-sized cheque for 46 pence tried to present it to University of Glasgow Principal Anton Muscatelli on Wednesday 25 June as part of their ongoing campaign to save courses facing the axe, but the Principal refused to accept the money.
The action was part of the build-up to a massive demonstration planned by the Anti-Cuts Action Network (ACAN) for Wednesday 22nd June, when the University will make its final decision on Muscatelli’s plans to cut the courses. In a humourous way, the students drew attention to the £20,000 in bonuses taken by Muscatelli and other members of senior management by holding an ‘austerity auction’ purporting to further supplement their salary.
However, Muscatelli and senior management were not willing to receive the cheque. According to the students he preferred to stay at a lunch laid on at the university’s expense.
With the Court meeting now only one week away, the students’ campaign is reaching its final stages. A website (http://www.stopmuscatelli.com) has been launched, featuring personal accounts by campaigners, and the Free Hetherington occupation, which is co-ordinating the campaign, is organising special events to coincide with the university’s open day.
The atmosphere among the campaigners is expectant. With sharp criticism from the First Minister Alex Salmond and a vote of no confidence from the local branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU),
the students consider Muscatelli’s support is plummeting.
Students at Glasgow University will hold an Austerity Auction today (Wednesday 15 June) to help their Principal’s cause.
Said a student spokesperson: ‘Principal Anton Muscatelli and other members of senior management’s recent £20,000 in bonuses seems rather small. So we’re having an auction to raise funds.’ With tongue firmly in cheek, the spokesperson added: ‘We feel that around 20 or 30 pence will be enough.’
This action is part of a campaign leading up to the Anti-Cuts Action Network (ACAN) demonstration on Wednesday 22 June. The date coincides with the meeting of the University Court which will vote on Muscatelli’s austerity proposals.
The students are based in the Hetherington Club building in University Gardens where there has been a sit-in for 135 days. What started as a protest at the loss of the Club building to post graduate students – to whom it had been gifted – has grown to be the leading students group protesting at savage cuts being programmed by the University.
The Free Hetherington protesters were evicted on Tuesday 22 March, by campus security and around 100 police officers in a heavy handed action that was publicly condemned by many staff, MSPs including Patrick Harvie and the public. On eviction, a massive crowd of students immediately marched to the Senate offices and occupied them. Within a few hours the outcome of round table discussions with University management resulted in the students returning to the Hetherington and continuing their sit-in.
The campaign has already built considerable momentum, with a picket inviting the Principal to quit his addiction to austerity, a stall giving away cake to publicise the demonstration and most recently, a clowning rally. (see photograph)
Cuts still likely to happen include the axing of – Social Work courses, Humanities at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries, Slavonic Studies, The Centre for Drugs Misuse Research and other research projects. DACE – the adult and community learning centre and entry point to the University for many mature students – is likely to be privatised as it generates £1.8m profit a year. Nursing has been given a one year reprieve but is unlikely to be saved as there is an over-abundance of nursing study places in Central Scotland. Courses saved include Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology.
The local branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) recently passed a vote of no confidence in the Principal. First Minister, First Minister Alex Salmond has openly criticised him.
Commented a student spokesperson: ‘The Senate, the academic governing body of the university, has been angered over the last six months by Muscatelli’s disregard for their decisions. Issues such as £13.2 million being spent to replace a perfectly functional IT system is widely viewed as an unnecessary expenditure.’
A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “Following an extensive consultation process, the University Court will meet on June 22. Court will decide on the recommendations made through the consultation panels into the re-shaping exercise that is taking place across a number of areas within the University of Glasgow, in line with our strategic plan. A full range of views and opinions have been taken into account, and the aim throughout has been to ensure that the University of Glasgow continues to deliver a world class experience for our students and staff.”
On day 121 of protests at University Cuts, students at the University of Glasgow held a ‘NO CUTS’ demo on Wednesday 1 June.
They were joined by students from their Crichton Campus in Dumfries which is also under threat.
The University Court is due to make a final decision on Wednesday 22 June. And in a series of ‘Wednesday Warm-ups’ for a major rally planned for that date, around 50 gathered with banners outside the Senate to make their voices heard.
Said spokeswoman Suzanne: ‘This is the start of a month long campaign. Many students have now gone home after the exams but an impressive number has stayed behind to fight to save courses in Glasgow and at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.’
Originally around £20 million worth of cuts were flagged up by the University. But a four month campaign by students and staff, a contentious 3000 strong demonstration and the longest running student occupation in UK history has brought much success to the campaigners.
Courses which have been saved from the axe include: Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology. Nursing has been given a one year stay of execution. The department of Adult and Continuing Education (DACE) which generates £1.8 million in profit annually, has been privatised.
Students first occupied the Hetherington Club building off University Avenue on 1 February this year. A heavy-handed eviction by Strathclyde Police and campus security was severely criticised by students, staff, members of the public and local MSPs. Within hours, the student protesters had re-occupied the Club premises with the agreement of the University management, to continue their peaceful sit-in protest.
Continued the student spokesperson: ‘The campaign has been successful, so far, in saving a number of courses but many are still under threat. We will intensify pressure on Principal Anton Muscatelli with our series of protests culminating in a march on the University Court on Wednesday 22 June. Our message is clear – NO CUTS!’
Alternatives to the cuts, as proposed by the students, include scrapping the £13.2 million IT consultants’ proposed spend on a website.
Said Ceris Aston a 3rd year Liberal Arts student from Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus: ‘Our website has not been updated since May of last year. But the proposal to withdraw Liberal Arts (Humanities) from Crichton is a slippery slope to closure of the campus.’ She said that 75 of the 200 students in Dumfries were Liberal Arts students. ‘We consider all the cuts are unjust and unnessary both in Glasgow and Dumfries. So we are in Glasgow in solidarity with students and staff here.’
Katy Ewing, a class colleague of Ceris’s added: ‘Our course is amazing and consistently achieves high quality passes but the marketing of Crichton Campus is shoddy.’
As well as the Crichton Campus courses, others in Glasgow still under threat are: Social Work, Slavonic Studies, Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol (STRADA) and several research projects.
In a major turnaround, Glasgow University allowed students to re-occupy a building only hours after calling in police to evict them.
A massive police presence with helicopter, police horses and re-inforcements elsewhere on the campus, got the remaining dozen or so, students out of the Hetherington Research Club building at 13 University Gardens on Tuesday 22 March.
They had been there since February 1 in protest at the building lying unused for a year and at other major cuts the University is imposing.
On Tuesday, the University stated it had written to the students still in occupation, asking them to bring their protest to a peaceful conclusion. Some left, ‘But,’ said the University spokesperson, ‘the continuing presence of occupiers in No 13 University Gardens was putting at risk University plans to refurbish the accommodation and to develop it for academic use.
‘After University staff entered the building and asked the remaining occupiers to leave, Police were then asked to attend when a group of protestors gathered outside. The occupiers left the building peacefully, and there were no serious incidents.’
But a mass of students then marched from University Gardens to the Senate offices across the road in the quadrangle. There between 80 and 100 people sat-in.
David Newall, Secretary of Court and Director of Administration at the University met them on Tuesday evening.
He told University students on Wednesday: ‘As well as raising concerns to do with planned higher education cuts, they expressed their anger at the way events had unfolded during the day. The students asked to have open access to sustain a student occupation in the Main Building. In discussion, it was pointed out that this would potentially have a very disruptive effect on staff and student activities. As an alternative, I have agreed with the students that they may return to the Hetherington Building and continue the occupation. I will discuss with them how they will exercise a system of control over those entering the occupation space. I will also give them an assurance that the University will not ask Police back on campus in respect of the occupation unless in future there is a serious public order issue.’
Allegations of a separate group forcing entry to the adjacent property at No 11 University Gardens on Tuesday, have been made.
The number of police officers attending and the strength of the police presence was heavily criticised by many onlookers on Tuesday.
John Eldridge, Emeritus Professor of Sociology told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘If ever there was an example of overkill, this was it. I noticed a police helicopter hovering over my office and thought there must be a major crime being committed. What I witnessed was a large number of police and police vehicles around the Hetherington Building. The decision to call in police to what is a very small scale occupation lacks all sense of proportion. Do the University authorities have no negotiating skills? This was a sad and depressing day for Glasgow University.’
Dr Joanna Ferrie of the Department of Sociology was one of the crowd of several hundred who witnessed the police at work: ‘This was a most peaceful, intelligent and mature sit-in. I took my five year old son along. The students were having seminars and lectures. It was unnecessary to be so heavy handed when dealing with intelligent people’
Added Ph.D student Phillippa Rieck: ‘Saying the space is wanted for academic purposes is a duff argument. There is a lot of empty space around and there will be more when the cuts take effect.’
A senior academic described the scenes at University Gardens as ‘Little Libya’ and questioned how much it cost the University for the Police involvement. A Strathclyde Police spokesperson later said such operational costs are never given out.
Liam, a first year Glasgow University student, said: ‘I was dragged out of the Hetherington by three police officers. It was completely disproportionate. All we were doing was protesting against cuts at our university.’
Jack Ferguson, a 4th year Sociology and Anthropology student who had been with the sit-in from the beginning in February told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘We were holding free lectures, having people like Billy Bragg and Liz Lochhead come to share their knowledge. We were doing what the university should be doing – giving access to the local community and giving free education.’ He showed a red welt on his wrist where he had been handcuffed and his arm forced up behind his back. ‘This was a non-violent sit-in. My brother was pinned down on a chair and kneed in the groin. A girl with a kidney condition was punched in the back and slammed against the wall. These things shouldn’t happen and I’m calling for the Principal, Anton Muscatelli, to resign.’
Police Superintendent Nelson Telfer, commenting on Tuesday’s intervention at 13 University Gardens said:’We were not there to evict people or to force our way into any premises. There were some instances of minor disorder which were quickly dealt with.
“No arrests were made during the protest however, as a result of enquiries; one female has been arrested for an alleged obstruction. She was taken to the Western Infirmary after complaining of feeling unwell. No officers were injured during the incident.
“We will always do whatever we can to facilitate peaceful protests. However, spontaneous incidents such as this one are a massive drain on resources. We would much rather work with groups or individuals who are seeking to exercise their right to protest so that we can make sure that any demonstration takes place safely and, of course, lawfully. However, where events do become unlawful, robust action will be taken whether that is at the time or retrospectively.’
He added: ‘Any suggestion that the police response to this situation was disproportionate is quite frankly ridiculous. Strathclyde Police regularly facilitates organised protests and marches but we had no prior knowledge of the action at the University and had to react in real time. It is testament to the officers judgement and discretion that no-one was injured.’
On Tuesday one woman was arrested and charged with obstruction. The following morning, early, a 17 year old man and a 35 year old woman were each arrested at their own homes and charged with alleged breach of the peace. The woman was charged, in addition, with alleged police assault.
A University spokesperson said that there would be a ‘full internal review’ of the events.