Focus on East Asia
2018 has been a great year for our East Asia Regional team. We sat down with them to discuss their thoughts on the region and vision for the future.
Q: Congratulations on the British Business Award! Can you tell us more about the award and what you received it for?
Thank you! We were over the moon when they announced the winner.
The Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Institute was named Education Institutional Partnership of the Year at the British Business Awards 2018, sponsored by the British Council and organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in China.
It was a well-deserved award for the hard work led by Professor Sue Welburn and Professor Mike Shipston over the past few years. Being able to celebrate as a team was an extremely proud moment.
Q: Zhejiang sounds like a very successful activity. Are there more like that planned, or other partnership activities that you think could grow to be as impactful?
Yes, as there are so many opportunities in the region. Apart from the Zhejiang Joint Institute, we have exciting activities such as the recently launched UK-China Low Carbon College in Shanghai led by ECCI; And the partnership we have with Donghua University on fashion innovation and interior design, just to name a few.
Q: Are there any other activities you’re excited about in the future of the East Asia regional centre?
We are setting up two offices in Shanghai and Beijing, which will help to expand our reach of influence and raise our profile on behalf of the University.
The East Asia Regional Centre frequently receives requests from within the region about partnership opportunities. We are keen to link up with key stakeholders in the University in order to facilitate and develop those opportunities.
Shanghai in particular is one of the destinations for the activities connected with the city regions series of events, and we are planning to organise a high-level event early next year to highlight key partnerships as well as the potential we have in the region.
Q: What is exciting about the region at the moment? What are the challenges of the region? How do these both impact the work of the East Asia regional centre?
In an increasingly globalised and inter-connected world, fast economic development, diverse cultures, and emphasis on higher education has made East Asia an exciting region for international higher education collaboration.
We’ve learned from working in the region that it is important to talk, build rapport, and develop trust. We can then work closely together, and more often than not, we find that ultimately, we are looking for something very similar – impactful partnerships.
One of the key developments is the Belt and Road Initiative, which means China is ever more active on the global stage, including higher education. China has been investing a significant amount into the internationalisation of local universities, building them into world class universities.
It brings immense opportunities, but also competition. With this in mind, we need to strengthen our partnerships in the region even more, make sure they are strategic and sustainable.
The University is very active in the region. There are various activities happening and initiatives developing at university, institutional and academic level. In order to better understand, coordinate and facilitate those developments, we need regular discussions with the leads in the University, as well as external contacts.
Not surprisingly, one of the challenges is communication - that’s why we always encourage colleagues to copy us in regarding activities they have in the region.
The team in the regional centre is very new, and honestly we are still trying our best to understand how the university works, as well as what our past and current partnerships are while developing new opportunities. We are ambitious, and excited to work with colleagues in Edinburgh and across the regions.
East Asian students are the largest group of international students at the University. Edinburgh Global has an excellent relationship with the East Asian student community actively collaborating with the student societies to deliver events on campus and overseas to improve the student experience and promote student wellbeing.
Challenges to direct recruitment include a shrinking student-age population across East Asia, market saturation and fierce global competition for students; student trends to study inter-regionally as Asian countries are closer geographically and culturally; preferences to study at home at high ranking local institutions as well as being linked to employment prospects; lack of familiarity with the UK offering etc.
Therefore, we need to increase our footprint across the region, work more collaboratively with academic and admissions colleagues across the University and become more collaborative in the recruitment process, enable our current students on international exchanges and alumni to work together as a whole in an ambassadorial role and contribute to the recruitment effort.
Q: China has been very important to the work in the region so far. Are there any other countries in East Asia that you’re hoping to build the work in? If so, what is particularly appealing about that location?
Of course, the region centre covers not only mainland China, Hongkong, Taiwan, but also Japan and South Korea.
In Japan, this year the University of Edinburgh has been selected as one of the six UK university partners to join RENKEI. It’s a partnership of six Japanese and six UK universities, serving as a platform for building Japan-UK research collaboration on common challenges such as climate change and health. We also have a joint PhD programme in Science with Nagoya University.
Furthermore, we are also committed to strengthening our link with South Korea, such as the Yun Posun Young Scholar award, and active student exchange.
Q: What’s next? What is your vision of the regional centre?
Student recruitment, partnership development and alumni engagement are embedded in the various activities we lead on.
We would like to re-energize our relationships with external partners in the region, and internal stakeholders across schools. As mentioned earlier, one of the challenges of leading such a diverse and exciting region is communication. It will take time, but given time, we will have a more coordinated approach towards activities in East Asia.
This also the reason we are seeking to raise our profile both internally and externally, so that the Regional Centre will be involved early on in activities and we can advise, facilitate and organise East Asia related activities effectively. That will enable us to support the University’s regional activities as a whole and to be strategic and sustainable.
The East Asia team is composed of:
- Grace Guan, Regional Director - Elton Zhang, Deputy Director - Natascha Gentz, Assistant Principal - China - Esther Sum, Regional Manager