Confucius Institute is a non-profit public educational organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China whose aim is to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.
The Confucius Institute program began in 2004 and is overseen by Hanban (officially the Office of Chinese Language Council International). The institutes operate in co-operation with local affiliate colleges and universities around the world, and financing is shared between Hanban and the host institutions. The related Confucius Classroom program partners with local secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials.
China has compared Confucius Institutes to language and culture promotion organizations such as Portugal's Instituto Camões, Brazil's Centro Cultural Brasileiro, Britain's British Council, France's Alliance Française, Italy's Società Dante Alighieri, Spain's Instituto Cervantes and Germany's Goethe-Institut. However, unlike these organizations, many Confucius Institutes operate directly on university campuses, thus giving rise to unique concerns related to academic freedom and political influence.