A DEAL between Limerick Institute of Technology and Yangtze University will see up to 120 Chinese students a year take their studies in Limerick from 2013.
And LIT anticipates that Irish students will in time get opportunities to study in Jingzhou, a fast-developing city of six million people on the banks of the Yangtze, Asiaâ€™s longest river.
As the agreement develops, academic staff could be exchanged and there could also be collaborative research between the two institutions.
College president Dr Maria Hinfelaar, who has just returned from China after inking the â€œunique and exclusiveâ€ deal, explained that the Chinese studentsâ€™ tuition fees and accommodation costs in Limerick are to be covered by the Chinese state as the worldâ€™s most dynamic economy demands more graduates in construction and civil engineering
And it is in these disciplines that the first Chinese students coming to LIT are to concentrate.
â€œThe first wave of Chinese students coming to LIT will study in the areas of civil engineering and construction management with further programmes in other discipline areas being explored. In a unique agreement Chinese students will study for the first three years at Yangtze University on an LIT-recognised programme and then complete their final year of study at LIT,â€ a college spokesperson explained.
Head of the School of the Built Environment at LIT Maria Kyne, who was also in China for the formalities, said: â€œthe school looks forward to working in collaboration with Yangtze University and to welcoming the Chinese students to our programmesâ€.
â€œThe School of the Built Environment has a long tradition of providing construction, property and civil engineering education in the Mid-West Region,â€ Ms Kyne said.
â€œThe demand for more qualified professionals in the construction and civil engineering professions in China is growing which is why tuition and accommodation costs for the students who will come to LIT will be covered by the Chinese government,â€ said Dr Hinfelaar.
The city of Jingzhou itself, which is an ancient regional capital, is undergoing rapid expansion and major infrastructural development.
And the agreement would also benefit Limerick Institute of Technology, its president said.
â€œThe presence of Chinese students will greatly enhance the international experience of all our students on campus,â€ Dr Hinfelaar stated.
Yangtze University has a student body of nearly 50,000 and already has links with third levels institutions in the United States, the UK, Germany and South Korea. LIT is the first Irish college with which it has become involved.
The agreement follows a series of meetings between the executive teams at both colleges over the past number of months. In August of this year Professor Xi Chuanjin, dean of the International College at Yangtze University visited LIT to meet with faculty from the School of the Built Environment.