LONDON, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- A leading British academic on Monday defended the award-winning Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield, saying it is key to helping business in northern England create trade with China.
Professor Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, responded to criticism of Confucius Institutes that are established at universities across the world.
In late October, leading British business newspaper the Financial Times (FT) published an article. While acknowledging the mission of Confucius Institutes is to satisfy overseas demand for learning Chinese, it quoted an unnamed U.S. professor suggesting the centers amount to one country interfering with the education process of another.
Burnett, who is also head of the science and innovation board for the Sheffield City Region, a large industrial area in the heart of Britain, hit back at the criticisms in a letter to the FT.
Burnett said his response letter to the FT was submitted "to correct a misunderstanding that seems to have arisen about the role of Confucius Institutes, as I know them."
In the letter, Burnett called for effective work with partners around the world, including China, "arguably the present leader in global free trade."
The University of Sheffield, said Burnett, works with Chinese universities and companies in various research fields that in turn bring opportunities and investment back to the Sheffield City Region.
Burnett said that the Confucius Institute at Sheffield, besides providing language teaching to individuals and companies wishing to learn Mandarin, plays a key role in this work.
"Our award-winning Confucius Institute ... has put a great deal of our effort to helping local industry and commerce to work with Chinese partners and prospective investors and customers," he wrote.
"This is warmly welcomed by our local Chamber of Commerce, Sheffield City Council and local enterprise partnership," he added.
The cooperation between the university and the Chinese side listed in the letter include innovative technologies for low-carbon electric cars, quantum computing and the high-performance metals used on the Chinese space station.
Established in 2007, the Confucius Institute at Sheffield celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
Burnett, who chairs the board of the Confucius Institute at Sheffield, has twice been awarded the prestigious Individual Performance Excellence award by China in recognition of his contribution to the greater understanding of Chinese language and culture.
The University of Sheffield is rated among the Top 100 in the world, and is a member of of the Russell Group of leading British research universities.