McMaster’s ability to provide students with Chinese language and culture courses took a significant blow last summer.

Following the university’s decision to separate from the Confucius Institute last February, the Faculty of Humanities is attempting to provide students with at least a modicum of its former offerings, having relied on this foreign partnership since 2008 to provide students with a variety of courses for those who wanted to learn about China or learn its language.

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The acting Dean of Humanities, Ken Cruikshank, defends the school’s decision to separate.

“Disconnecting ourselves from the Confucius Institute was an important step we had to take – the university as a whole had to take – in order to address a human rights complaint,” said Cruikshank.

A glance at the Undergraduate course timetable yields a slew of “Not Offered” statuses, bringing last year’s total of 11 courses down to a single offering, an introductory Mandarin class.

“The number of Chinese courses that are being offered this year are obviously less than last year, but actually the number of students affected by that is not that high. Last year there were 49 students taking introductory Chinese; this current year there are 44 students [in the course.]”

The Faculty of Humanities is now responsible for offering and maintaining the course, which does not come without a cost.

“My ability to offer the course is, obviously I have to find the money myself now. The Confucius Institute provided a way of offering these courses; someone else was helping to pay for them,” said Cruikshank.

In light of the faculty offering a beginner’s language course this year, there is no assurance that this program will be offered in future years. “We will try as best we can to continue to mount the course but I can’t guarantee every year. But there is certainly a continued commitment and it will continue to be a course we offer.”

“We are currently not exploring international partnerships such as we had through the Confucius Institute. I think that way there is a lesson to be learned from the work that we did,” said Cruikshank. “It seemed initially to be a very promising avenue and certainly a number of universities continue to have Confucius Institutes but we suspect they are going to have the same problems.”

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