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The Confucius Institute in Atlanta was established in March 2008 as an educational partnership among Emory University, Nanjing University in China and the Atlanta Public Schools, with funding support from the Confucius Institute Headquarters/Hanban. It was the first Confucius Institute to be established in the State of Georgia. Emory University was the first among top private research I universities to enter an agreement to set up a Confucius Institute on its campus. After its restructure and renewal in March 2011, the CI is now a partnership between Emory University and Nanjing University.

Nanjing University, the CI’s partner institution in China, has consistently ranked among the top ten in China’s institutions of higher learning. With a history of more than 110 years, Nanjing University boasts of outstanding teaching and research facilities and is a leader in China’s higher education. In 2011, in faculty and graduate student research productivity, Nanjing University ranked second in the nation, following Qinghua University. In the latest 2012 national ranking, Nanjing University's overall ranking was 6th in the country.

Since its establishment, the CI in Atlanta has provided a broad range of programs to raise awareness of Chinese language, culture and society among schoolchildren, educators, college students and faculty, businesses, and communities in metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.