Accidental impostor bolts before China bluff is exposed

February 20, 2004

An Oxford University student sent to China last week on an all-expenses-paid lecturing trip arrived to find that the Beijing institution had mistaken him for a US professor with the same name.

Matthew Richardson, 23, an engineering student, was approached by an Oxford contact, for whom he does summer-school lecturing on maths, about a trip to Beijing to lecture undergraduates on fairly basic mathematics.

It seemed to him little more onerous than the lecturing he did at the summer schools and a great opportunity to get a free trip to China with the possibility of fitting in some sightseeing. So Mr Richardson agreed.

But, according to a report in The Oxford Student newspaper, when he arrived at the business school, he was welcomed as the academic contracted to teach 20 hours over three days. And the students were not undergraduates working on maths, but MBA students studying for their doctor of business administration qualifications who were expecting to be lectured on global economics.

The institution had been expecting Matthew P. Richardson, a professor at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, and not Matthew C. Richardson, a student at St Peter's College, Oxford.

After some quick thinking, Mr Richardson decided to press ahead. With a book on global economics in hand, he proceeded to deliver a day and a half's worth of lectures that he said consisted almost entirely of reading from the textbook.

He told The Times Higher : "I think the students were fairly convinced, as I wasn't making it up, but reading from a book. They certainly didn't have many questions to ask.

"But after about nine and a half hours of the 20 hours, they wanted me to lecture, and I decided to get out. I said to the students that we were taking a short break. I got my stuff, hailed a taxi and basically did a runner."

Now safely back in Oxford, Mr Richardson added: "The odd thing is that I am not even considering an academic career."

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