Perth is positioning itself to take advantage of the huge benefits offered by improved links to China and its growing economy.
Scotland’s newest city has long boasted strong ties with East Asia through trade and a pioneering twinning agreement with Haikou in China’s Hainan province.
That has the potential to provide huge benefits to Perth and Kinross and, it is suggested, could be the foundation for the region’s future business, educational and tourism success.
As one the fastest-growing economies in the world, China has plenty to offer and a high-level delegation, led by then Provost Dr John Hulbert, visited in 2011.
Among the party members were representatives from Perth College UHI and they were able to negotiate significant agreements that will increase the college’s penetration of the educational establishments in Haikou and bring greatly increased numbers of students to Perth.
That work has continued and this month Perth College UHI welcomed a delegation from the Hunan Institute of Engineering. The visit was the latest in a series of exchanges as part of an institutional partnership between the two universities.
Professor Xiao Peng, vice-president of the Hunan Institute of Engineering; Professor Licheng Yang, director of the International Education School; and Ms Kuangyi Mao, director of the Foreign Affairs Office, met college staff and signed an agreement formalising educational links.
This has already seen the start of a staff exchange programme and will next see Chinese students take a year of their electrical and mechanical engineering degree studies at Perth College UHI.
The exchanges will be complemented by the collaboration of additional disciplines and a joint research project.
This latest agreement builds upon the strong links already created between the Perth campus of the UHI and the No. 1 Middle School in Haikou and the Hainan Normal University.
That has led to staff from Perth teaching in the school and university in Haikou, while Chinese students have visited Perth to study during the latter stages of their courses.
Perth itself has already become something of a hub for learning about Chinese language and culture, with Perth High School home to what was Scotland’s first Confucious classroom and offering Mandarin as one of its foreign languages.
Perth and Kinross Council’s lifelong learning convener Councillor Bob Band said the improved links offered great opportunities for Perth’s workforce.
“China has a huge population and they can all be consumers for Scottish products,” he explained.
“Education is the first step to tapping into that market and it is fantastic to see this being undertaken so successfully in our schools and at Perth College UHI.
“Whether through developing their own business, in their chosen workplace, or should it transpire that their employer wants to open an office in Beijing, knowledge of China, its culture and its languages could offer a great head-start.
“It is great to think that Perth and Kinross could be well placed to take advantage of these opportunities.”