Delivery of course in Chinese History and Politics in UCD draws opposition from staff

Critics say the Irish Institute for Chinese Studies is too closely linked to UCD’s Confucius Institute

Several academics from University College Dublin (UCD) have strongly objected to the delivery of a course covering Chinese history and politics by the college’s Irish Institute for Chinese Studies (IICS) because of reports that the Institute has a strong relationship with the campus-based Confucius Institute, a joint venture between the college and a state body in Beijing.

Those opposing the delivery of this course by the IICS have emailed and had meetings with several figures in the college, saying that it “devalues and endangers UCD’s academic reputation”.

The issue has been led by the head of the School of Politics and International Relations, Prof David Farrell.

He has said that “The UCD School of Politics and International Relations has been arguing for some time now that it should be the unit responsible for teaching Chinese politics (indeed, we offer just such a module), not a unit that in any way, however remotely, is associated with the Confucius Institute”.

However, a spokesperson for the college has said that the IICS, as an academic centre within the college, is governed “in the same manner as all academic centres.”

The spokesperson continued to say that all staff in the institute are appointed in accordance with the college’s human resources policies and procedures. Likewise, the spokesperson mentioned that the Confucius Institute hosted at UCD does not deliver any teaching credits.

In objection, an associate professor with the UCD School of Politics and International Relations, Alexander Dukalskis, has pointed out that both Institutes “were established at the same time, have the same director, the same email address, the same phone number, the same building, overlapping senior staff, and share the same mission to promote teaching Chinese studies”.

Prof Farrell has taken up the issue with Prof Dolores O’Riordan, Vice-President for Global Engagement at UCD.

Farrell emailed all staff in the school and said the word politics had been removed from the course title and replaced with governance, following complaints received regarding the teaching of the course. However, the course as a whole has remained largely unchanged.

Additionally, Farrell suggested in the email that “We could register our protest with the president, and we could insist that as a matter of urgency the IICS should be formally and fully separated from the [Confucius Institute]”.

In emails to Prof O’Riordan sent on July 26, Prof Farrell said that “I am telling you categorically that it is unacceptable to us”.

“We object in the strongest possible terms to the decision to keep this module on the books”.

O’Riordan informed Farrell that Prof Maeve Houlihan of the Lochlann Quinn School of Business was satisfied with the proposed changes to the course.

She went on to say that she regretted that their exchange had reached a position where she saw no reason to continue with it.

The course is described on the college website as one that “enables an understanding of the changing forms of governance in China”. Figures such as Sun Yatsen, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping are studied in a “socio-political” context, with attention given to the impact each figure had.

Jamie Cox

Jamie Cox is current News Analysis Editor for Trinity News and previously served as Higher Education Correspondent. He is a Junior Sophister Ancient and Medieval History and Culture student.