The Confucius Institute for Chinese Studies will begin offering classes at Tel Aviv University in October, according to an agreement signed on Monday between University President Prof. Itamar Rabinovitch and Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhao Jun. The Confucius Institute is an initiative of the Chinese government aimed at promoting Chinese language and culture internationally. TAU has the largest faculty of Far Eastern studies in Israel, with 200 students registering for Chinese language and culture courses every year. As opposed to regular university courses, classes at the Confucius Institute will be open to the public and students will not have to be registered at the university. "In the last 10 years we have experienced a huge growth in demand for Chinese language studies. China is the fastest growing economy in the world today. Many Israelis are interested in learning the language history and culture of the newest global superpower," said Prof. Meir Shahar, the new institute's director. The Chinese government's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language has opened 150 such institutes in more than 60 countries. Israel is the third country in the Middle East to open a Confucius Institute, after Lebanon and Turkey. In addition to language courses, the new institute will offer seminars on Chinese philosophy, history and economics, and fund fellowships and exchange programs with Chinese universities and awards to outstanding students. "We are proud to be in the company of elite universities like the universities of Heidelberg, Vienna and Rome in hosting a Confucius Institute and look forward to a successful partnership," said Shahar. The institute will be run by Shahar and professors Aron Shai and Raanan Rein.