Edinburgh Global

Spotlight on Confucius Institute for Scotland

The Confucius Institute for Scotland in the University of Edinburgh is a national centre that promotes educational and cultural ties between Scotland and China.

Portrait photo of Llinos Jones
Llinos Jones, General Manager at the Confucius Institute for Scotland

We met with Llinos Jones, General Manager at the Confucius Institute for Scotland (CIS), at the Institute's prestigious location, Abden House, to find out more about the role of the CIS within the University.

Establishing The Confucius Institute for Scotland

The Confucius Institute at the University of Edinburgh was the first in Scotland. The agreement to establish the CIS was signed in summer 2006 and shortly after work began to refurbish Abden House - a baronial-style mansion adjacent to the University’s Pollock Halls of Residence with stunning views of Arthur’s Seat, as the Institute’s main offices and teaching location.

There are a further four CI's now based in Scotland: University of Glasgow, partnered with Nankai University (opened 2011), University of Strathclyde, partnered with Tianjin University (opened 2012), University of Aberdeen, partnered with Wuhan University (opened 2013), and Heriot Watt University, partnered with Tianjin University of Finance and Economics (opened 2014, as a business-focused institute).

Llinos, who joined the CIS in late 2022 explains, “Our Confucius Institute was the first in Scotland and one of the earliest in the whole of the UK. We are part of a large global network of over 450 Confucius Institutes and the broad goal of each of our institutes is to promote the knowledge and understanding of Chinese language and culture.”

Through language courses, academic and cultural events and outreach, workshops, and academic exchanges, the Confucius Institute plays a significant role in strengthening educational and cultural ties with China, contributing to cross-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding in the global context.

Abden House, the Confucius Institute for Scotland's main offices and teaching location.
Abden House, the Confucius Institute for Scotland's main offices and teaching location.

The CI has a five-year strategic plan and the key elements are as follows:

  1. Enhance, diversify and grow Chinese language teaching
  2. Deepen and expand the partnership between the CIS and University of Edinburgh, to the mutual benefit of both
  3. Further enhancement of the cultural and outreach programme
  4. Transformative academic and cultural exchange opportunities for students and staff – scholarships, student, and staff mobility

Partnering with Fudan University

Fudan University entranceway
Fudan University, the Confucius Institute for Scotland's key partner

Named after renowned Chinese philosopher, Confucius, the Edinburgh-led institute operates in collaboration with Fudan University as its key partner, and collaborates with other partner institutions and organisations across Scotland. 

Fudan, one of China's leading universities is situated in Shanghai. Fudan University is also partnered, alongside Edinburgh, in the Universitas 21 (U21) network and several of our undergraduate students, who are on the Chinese Studies degree programme at the University of Edinburgh, undertake their year studying abroad year at Fudan.

Llinos explains – “The model of the CI is that each university has a Chinese partner university, and it is a very close partnership. Each year a team of around seven Chinese teachers (predominately masters students studying to teach Chinese as a foreign language) are selected to come to Edinburgh for one year"

A co-director from Fudan is also appointed and is based in Edinburgh to co-direct and help run the institute in partnership with the Edinburgh staff.

“Whilst the Chinese teachers gain international teaching experience, our students at the CIS are taught by very enthusiastic teachers who are in touch with modern China.”

Speaking with Llinos, it becomes clear the value held in promoting an understanding of contemporary China.

Once settled, the teachers run face-to-face and online classes at the CIS which vary from beginners to intermediate and advanced classes, private tutoring, and corporate clients. The CIS collaborates closely with the expertise of staff within the University’s School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures as specialist Programme Advisors.

The CIS also teaches brush painting and calligraphy classes. These are popular and student numbers have increased once more by more than 20% since the pandemic.

Anyone can study at the CIS

A group of people doing Calligraphy
A calligraphy workshop at the Confucius Institute for Scotland

The CIS’s offering of Chinese language and cultural learning is open to many different people.

“Confucius Institutes are hosted by universities, which provides us with many benefits, but can sometimes cause assumptions that we are here only for the university community. Whilst a very significant student and staff community do participate in our classes, we are much broader with our reach. Anyone living in Edinburgh, or the vicinities of Edinburgh can come to study and learn here,” says Llinos.

Llinos talked about the diverse and engaging programme of educational and cultural events at the CIS last year which included: a book launch featuring prominent Chinese fiction writers, an academic talk on how Chinese philosophy could help the climate crisis; calligraphy and Chinese brush painting classes, mooncake and lantern making workshops, and of course recently, celebrations for the Lunar New Year.

Such events attract a real diversity of local people of all backgrounds, young and old, people who have never been to China and people of East Asian heritage wishing to learn from scratch or brush up their Chinese language skills.

“We are bringing people together with a common interest in Chinese culture. It doesn’t matter what your background is – we are an inclusive and welcoming space for all.”

The CIS team

Confucius Institute group photo at a ceilidh
Confucius Institute for Scotland team

As of September 2023, the CIS is based within Edinburgh Global, where the CIS Director, Dr Chris Yeomans, is based. Chris is also the Director of Global Engagement at Edinburgh Global.

The CIS team is currently made up of, Chris Yeomans (Director), Dr Chen Yu (Co-Director), Llinos Jones (General Manager), Xin Zhang (Marketing and Operations Officer), Daniel Chan (Administrator) and the seven Chinese teachers who arrive from China each academic year.

Linos said, "The CIS is a truly cross-cultural institute in that it is a partnership in action between the University of Edinburgh and Fudan University. I get to practise some of my language skills here - which is great, it keeps things interesting from my perspective. Ultimately this is the purpose of the Confucius Institute for Scotland at the University of Edinburgh: to act as a cultural, educational and linguistic bridge between Scotland and China, enabling deeper understanding of both cultures."

Opportunities for university staff

Llinos hopes to pass on her experiences of this powerful and important cross-cultural working. The first pilot courses for university staff on introducing Chinese cultural competency took place in August and September 2023. They plan on running further workshops on Chinese cultural intelligence this year, open to all staff who are engaging with Chinese colleagues, students or partners in any way who may require some support and expertise from our CI.

"We will also be resuming our free 5-week lunchtime Chinese language taster sessions for staff at the end of February until May 2024, with a mixture of online and in person sessions." says Llinos.

Promoting an understanding of contemporary China

Showing young boy how panda holds bamboo

Llinos talks about the CIS's in curating events, organising outreach, and partnering within and around Edinburgh to promote an understanding of contemporary China.

"In 2022, we partnered with the Talbot Rice Gallery. It was a hugely successful exhibition by a very contemporary Chinese artist called Qiu Zhijie. An opportunity for us to bring contemporary Chinese art to the city of Edinburgh and it attracted several thousand visitors. In a similar vein this March we are also sponsoring an exhibition by Chinese-American artist, Candice Lin, also at the Talbot Rice Gallery. This exhibition will open speculative conservations about how humanness, animality, race and gender have been shaped by histories of science."

"We partner with Edinburgh Zoo on the Mandarin Mix programme and 'Beyond the Panda', developing resources for people and schools, for families and independent learners to learn more about the culture and language of China through the animals they have at the zoo."

"We collaborate with the Silent Film Festival, 'HippFest' in showing rare Chinese silent films and we have worked with our film and Chinese studies departments at the University, who often introduce the films.

"We also arrange outreach to schools in Edinburgh and do pop-up events with our Chinese teachers and calligrapher. It helps to spark an interest in China with a younger audience. We try to coincide our outreach with major Chinese festival, for example, the recent Lunar New Year, as well as the Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn Festival.

What is means for the University to host a CI

Finally, we asked Llinos what it means for the University to host a CI.

Llinos says, “Having a CI for almost 18 years strengthens and supports sustainable long term and mutual beneficial collaboration with partners in China. This is a period of great opportunity to offer culturally informed and evidence-based perspectives on China."

In the words of the British-Chinese journalist Yuan Yang writing in the Financial Times: "We need more people who can talk to, write about and understand China."

"We will continue to focus on fostering deeper knowledge, informed perspectives, and greater understanding through our programme of language, cultural and academic workshops and events, with an open door to all."

A huge thank you to Llinos for taking time out to talk about the role of the CIS within the University.

Related links

Visit the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s website:

Confucius Institute for Scotland