March 03, 2007

AAAWarwick University

I’m now in Beijing, having arrived on a flight from Hong Kong yesterday evening.

Today I’ve been helping man the Warwick stand at the international student recruitment fair in Beijing. We are located within the British Council enclave which, as in previous years apparently, is stuffed away in the far corner of the exhibition hall (think 2 halls at the NEC). I think the general view was that better and cheaper pitches were available if you didn’t elect to be under the BC umberalla, I reckon about a third of the ‘top’ UK universities at the fair chose to go independent – Warwick should perhaps consider this.

In order of best position (by enclave):
  1. Ireland (note: they are quite prepared to drop the Eire nonsense here)
  2. Australia – probably had the best impact and highest footfall
  3. Holland
  4. New Zealand
  5. Canada & US (central but upstairs, and almost no top Universities)
  6. New Zealand
  7. UK
    France was there as well but in a pretty minor way and anyway we don’t mention them (Duck!), a bit more prescence than Germany. The Nordic countries, Spain and Italy might as well not have bothered.

Of course Warwick also suffers from being at the end of the alphabet so we were in the furthest corner of the furthest corner, UK stand 47 of about 49. Perhaps we should change the name to AAAWarwick University – or would that cause too many problems with the CI?

Anyway its a real eye-opener and one that I guess fewer than 1% of academic staff (or us low-lifes, the academic related ones) ever see. I now know something of what the International Office do – thanks to Danni, and also our agents. Also about where we fit in the greater scheme of things – which is not as high as I think some of our leaders aspire to. Like all marketing I guess, the sellers desire and even performance is of secondary importance to the customers’ perception.

Now that I’ve been here for 24 hours I am an instant expert on China. Well, if not quite that, here are some observations based on a comparison with my last visit which was to Shanghai about 7 years ago.
  • Young Chinese people are far more assertive
  • No one wears blue overalls
  • lots are quite stylishly dressed or as ‘casual’ as Western students
  • The pace of transition is similar in my experience to that in Eastern Europe and you now see a good mix of Socialist Realism and Glass & Steel.
  • Chinese people don’t seem to speak as loudly as they used to.
  • More cars, lots more cars, someone said I think, 4,000 new registrations per month, or was that 40,000.
  • Shopping malls filled with designer stores – admitted we are staying in a central business district.
  • I reckon that in less than 10 years it won’t be cheap, just like I can’t afford to eat in the best restaurants in Warsaw anymore.

Tomorrow is another day on the pitch,as I said earlier perhaps we should change the name to AAAWarwick University


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