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Russell roams China and talks HE collaboration

Education Secretary Michael Russell was on his travels again this week, following previous outings to Scandinavia and Ontario. This time he hoped his visit would lead to lasting educational links between Scotland and China.

Mr Russell arrived in Hong Kong on Monday, aiming to build on the First Minister's three trade missions to China earlier this year.

One of his main goals was to boost the international standing of Scotland's universities in the eyes of one of the world's leading economies and encourage more Chinese students to study in Scotland.

Scottish universities' international activities contribute more than pound;500 million to the Scottish economy.

There are more than 5,000 students from China studying in Scotland, an increase of more than 400 since 2007-08; more than half of Scottish schools are linked to China through Confucius hubs; and 30 Chinese institutions offer the Scottish HND qualification to students.

Mr Russell's visit, which ends on Sunday, involves meetings in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin.

He met his Hong Kong counterpart Michael Suen and visited a school for children of migrant workers in Beijing. But his mission was chiefly to talk up collaboration in higher education: in Tianjin, he mapped out the potential for closer collaboration in the areas of higher education teaching and research, as well as the possible development of "vocational institutes" in China.

Mr Russell said: "This visit will cement our existing relationships, as well as create new partnerships. The relationship between Scotland and China has never been stronger. As we pursue every avenue to build growth and help Scotland emerge as strongly as possible from the global downturn, it is right that we set aside time and engage with one of the world's fastest-growing economies."

Edinburgh University's links with China go back for more than 150 years, since the graduation of Dr Huang Kuan, the first Chinese student to attend a western university. It is now home to almost 800 Chinese students.

emma.seith@tes.co.uk.

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