The institute facilitates Chinese language instruction, cultural exchange programs and curates Chinese cultural activities in conjunction with South China University of Technology in Hanban. The University of Idaho opened its Confucius Institute in 2013, and now employs five full-time instructors of Chinese language and two martial arts instructors. The Boise extension will add two new teachers.
Beginning in January 2016, the Boise extension will feature language learning and tai chi classes, as well as Chinese language and arts classes for public school students. Registration for Boise-based programming has already begun and runs through December. The Confucius Institute has also begun exchange programs for students and the University of Idaho community, including faculty programs. The institute will also facilitate an Idaho scholar's visit to China for the first time this summer.
University of Idaho's Confucius Institute is one of fewer than 100 such institutes across the country, and the extensions have courted controversy, with some professors and administrators worrying such centers interfere with academic freedom—particularly in areas where the Communist Party of China, Tibet, the Dalai Lama, Chinese military buildup and factional fights within Chinese leadership are concerned.
In a March 4, 2012 article in The New York Times, University of Pennsylvania Professor of International Relations Arthur Waldron said, "Once you have a Confucius Institute on campus, you have a second source of opinions and authority that is ultimately answerable to the Chinese Communist Party and which is not subject to scholarly review."