Broad vision is to cultivate connectivity in places touched by Belt and Road
A specialized Chinese university has launched a nationwide search for students with the passion and talent to study the languages used in countries along the Belt and Road Initiative.
Beijing Foreign Studies University kicked off an independent recruitment program last month to find candidates for 22 language majors that will be offered in the next academic year.
The languages－including Portuguese, Hungarian, Czech, Swedish, Dutch, Finnish, Lao, Thai, Indonesian and Hausa－are found along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which make up the Chinese initiative aimed at boosting connectivity between Asia, Europe and Africa.
Applicants must have an outstanding high school record in Chinese and foreign language studies and will need to pass several rounds of interviews to test their commitment and potential, the university said.
"We hope to ensure students recruited through the program have a strong interest in studying Belt and Road languages and have the ability to study well," said Xu Ye, director of the admission office.
The program was launched last year to nurture talent in linguistics and regional research, and to provide intellectual support for the initiative, he said.
The standards are strict: Of more than 2,700 applicants for 15 majors, only 270 students were admitted. Xu said the number of students admitted this year would not increase much, as the university wants to guarantee quality.
Han Zhen, the university's Party chief, said the Belt and Road Initiative involves a lot of countries and needs large numbers of bright people who can speak the languages fluently and are familiar with aspects of local life.
"Such people are in short supply," he said. "BFSU offers 83 foreign-language majors, the most of any Chinese university, and therefore shoulders the responsibility of nurturing such talent."
The university set a goal of having more than 100 foreign-language majors, covering all the official languages in countries that have diplomatic relations with China, by 2020. March alone saw the introduction of 11 new majors, including Belarusian, Han said.
"The languages of Belt and Road countries are the key points in our construction of disciplines," he added.
Since the initiative was proposed in 2013, higher education institutions in China have cooperated closely with their counterparts along the prospective trade and development routes.
One effort in this direction was the establishment of the Sino-Polish University Consortium in March. More than 20 universities in Beijing, Chongqing and across Poland joined the group to share their ideas and expertise.
Liu Gonghui, president of Beijing University of Technology, one of the founding members of the consortium, said the goal is to boost cooperation by exchanging personnel and other resources between universities in China and Central and Eastern European countries.
"Members of the consortium have agreed to work together to innovate and improve the quality of education and scientific research," he said.