Don's Diary

May 5, 1995

Friday. Super-shuttle to Heathrow. Pick up external member of Staffordshire University validation panel who works for both City University and Lyon Business School.

It is proposed that the new course will lead to an MSc in South East Asian management studies, the second term of which is to be delivered in the University of Foshan business school, in the People's Republic of China.

Saturday. Arrive Hong Kong in extensive mist. Tail wind caught ground handlers unawares - have to wait for steps and coaches to take us to the terminal.

The new Lantau Airport for Hong Kong is presumably needed to allow planes to park up against the piers instead of the "parking lot" model at Kai Tak. Suffer general jet lag collapse but average night's sleep for panel only 2 hours 45 minutes.

Sunday. Faxes in all directions. Dean pens next instalment of his strategic plan. Longest escalator up the back streets of Hong Kong island most remarkable. External member's attempt to rent flat half way up it even more remarkable.

Opportunistically join 17,000 local faces in queue that turns out to be for the only day of the year that entry to the governor's residence and gardens is possible. Residence itself relatively modest except in comparison with unrented flat (see above). Designed location of regal throne under coat of arms now filled by grand piano!

Fantastic display of multicoloured plumage in aviary. Reds and blues and greens flash past the high-level walkways. And, somewhat unexpectedly, it is free.

So is the tea-ware museum. Bone up on the evolution of tea-making over 1000 years. Not a perforated bag in sight. At least not by the time we were politely but firmly shown the door at precisely closing time. Inadvertently walk through centre of migrant domestic workers demonstration for civic rights. Become increasingly aware of tension between the demands of migrants and frustrations of the local population facing unemployment.

Monday. Take train into China (so-called Express Through Train). Sealed train vaguely reminiscent of journey to Berlin during Cold War. Toss up as to the more tedious bureaucracy - out of Hong Kong or into China. At least 1997 will simplify that transition. Train to Foshan now equipped with video-TV, carrying extensive advertising.

First film seems to be a dramatised manual for men on how to attract women.

The second is more violent - the first scene depicts our sword-waving hero devastating an army leaving bodies arranged across the battlefield like nouvelle cuisine.

Chinese hosts meet us at station. Etiquette requires matched status of leaders. Etiquette also suggests that success of mission will be revealed by status of the farewell team! Formal welcome brought forward to allow university president to return to his duties in Guangzhou where he is deputy chair of the provincial congress.

Tuesday. Formal sessions in university explaining the format of validating collaborative provision. The physical environment of the meeting seems more conducive to major international negotiations. The two sides peer at each other through pots of flowers surrounded by video-cameras, flash bulbs and national flags.

An initial tour of the campus and its facilities. Shown space cleared for the International Exchange Building - the "English village" where our students will live if the validation is successful. Wonder if they will feel deprived of participating in compulsory Tai Chi exercises daily at 6.30am.

As planned the fifth member of our group changes sides to partner local staff in presenting the MSc proposal. This is the culmination of preparations involving two previous visits and the Chinese academics welcome his return as that of an old friend. They had sacrificed their spring holiday to complete the documentation.

Thursday. Inspect library, computing facilities, audio-visual and language labs. Library assistants in the "foreign room" have a thankless task and I wonder how our staff would make out trying to make sense of Chinese characters. Putting Statics next to Statistics is not too surprising. Observe how envious our university librarian would be to see the space available in rooms and on shelves to support 4,500 students.

Visit a local enterprise. It makes mainly fans and air-conditioning units and is owned by the "township" (55 per cent) and private shareholders (45 per cent). It has had an annual growth in profits of about 50 per cent for the last four years. South China is motoring.

Saturday. Arrive back in Britain. Public address in plane instructs associate dean to collect urgent message on landing. Total stranger reads associate dean's luggage label at baggage reclaim and congratulates him on the birth of his grand-daughter. Sometimes communication is surprisingly effective.


Deputy vice chancellor of Staffordshire University.

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