THE Limerick/China foundation is to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a massive college in China - a move which could see thousands of students come to the city.
This week, a high level Chinese official was in the city to reflect on a visit by a delegation from the city of Nanjing back in March.
Monica Hao, who works for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Nanjing, outlined a number of connections available between Limerick and the eastern-Chinese city, which has a population of more than eight million people.
These included the potential of dairy co-operatives across the county supplying infant formula to Chinese babies.
But chief among the plans is building a connection with the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA), which has a student body of more than 23,000.
Former mayor Jim Long, who chairs the Limerick/Shannon-China foundation, which put the exchange in place, said LIT is the most appropriate partner, because of the nature of the work NUAA does.
On the delegation’s previous visit to Limerick, it was stated that over 1,000 extra students could flood the city’s third level institutions each year.
Ms Hao said: “I think as the Chinese people’s awareness of Limerick increases, there will be more Chinese students willing to come to Limerick. Although it is going a bit slow now, there is great potential for our co-operation in the future.”
Councillor Long said a “major step forward” has been taken this week.
“The NUAA is specially geared to Aeronautics and Astronautics, and it would fit the bill of LIT, because of the engineering space projects. This is where we are trying to home in on. We have attracted the attention of NUAA, and LIT together, and we need to move this to the next level,” he said.
Councillor Diarmuid Scully, head of educational projects at the foundation, added: “The University of Limerick, LIT and Mary Immaculate College have met us several times, and are willing to work together to try and facilitate the universities in Nanjing.”
He said is important not to underestimate the scale of the partnership with the Chinese province, pointing out that the city of Nanjing is similar in size to London.
The province, he added, is almost the same size as France, one of Europe’s largest economies.
“There is a lot we can get from this. It is not just us being a recipient of students: I would hope Irish students and lecturers would take the opportunity to teach and study in Nanjing too,” he said.
Councillor Scully also wants representative of Nanjing to be involved with Limerick’s City of Culture project.