A pilot scheme will see students from the University of Sheffield offered internships in a bid to offer companies access to Chinese language, cultural and business knowledge.
If it proves successful, the UK Trade & Investment initiative could be rolled out to other universities and trialled with other major non-European Union student groups, such as learners from India or Malaysia.
Details of the Great Ambassadors scheme were due to be announced by trade minister Lord Livingston during a speech in Sheffield on 25 November.
“China offers great opportunities for UK companies of all sizes, with growing demand for brand Britain,” the minister said. “Chinese-speaking students can help UK businesses to overcome the linguistic and cultural barriers that could stand between them and the Chinese market.”
Sheffield was chosen for the programme because it has one of the largest Chinese student populations in the UK, as well as one of the most established schools of East Asian studies.
Placements will last for between three months and a year.
Employers taking part include Chatsworth House, a popular destination for Chinese visitors partly thanks to its role as a location in the film version of Pride and Prejudice; Gripple, which is looking to export its fasteners to Chinese vineyards; and New Era Development, which is building a “Chinatown” scheme in Sheffield.
Paul White, the deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The project will not only provide a wide range of long-term benefits for our students who will be getting the very best foundations to their future careers, but it will also have a lasting impact on the businesses involved.”
China was chosen for the project because of its growing trade and investment clout, and because it has more students in the UK than any other overseas nation.