Answering the Whys

Hannah Phung

In preparation for one of our overseas programme, International Leadership Development Programme that takes place in Hong Kong and mainland China, I was drawn to the Education Guardian supplement Eastern horizons (15 January 2013).

The articles, and accompanying online live Q&A, raised many interesting questions on life for academics thinking about making the move to Southeast Asia. I saw even more in this than future work prospects. I asked myself what do I actually know about higher education in Southeast Asia and, this thought was followed by many whys? Why work in partnership; Why emigrate and Why Southeast Asia?

For so many UK universities diversifying – in research, TNE, student recruitment and contacts to name a few, these questions are constantly asked. This is why I reasoned that ILDP Hong Kong has been so popular since the programme began in 2011. It is an opportunity to visit higher education institutions and to ask questions unanswered in these news stories. In his article Professor John Spinks of Hong Kong University, says that the “Chinese government has provided funds for expanding the recruitment of international students and faculty as well as research grants” – this seems very positive but what are the conditions/reasoning behind this? How might this affect UK higher education?

The articles also highlight culture as one of the major area that UK universities really need to understand fully and make sense of when thinking of collaborating with Hong Kong or any Southeast Asian country.

I am a Chinese person born and brought up in Britain with parents who drummed the ‘You can always work harder’ mantra into my head, but the culture around me told me to balance work and play. I felt I understood both cultures well, but I was still shocked when I visited friends and family in Hong Kong and was told by Aunty Lau we could meet before she started work at 8am or after 8pm when she finished!

“That’s a 12 hour day you do Aunty Lau, how do you balance your work and family?”

“What do you mean by balance?”

“I mean have enough time for both work and family”

“Yes I do”

“errr… I’ll meet you after work; I am on holiday I suppose”

There is much you can learn from hearing others’ views and stories, and there will be so many more questions they raise. The best way to find out for yourself would be to take part in a programme such as ILDP Hong Kong, which this year is focusing on the subject of Building International Higher Education Partnerships, so that you can ask the questions you need to and get a taste of the difference for yourself.

Hannah Phung is the International Projects Manager, and her role includes the logistics and co-ordination of the ILDP Programmes.