My Week - 27 March

Update from Professor Peter Jimack, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.

Professor Peter Jimack
Although it took place more than two weeks ago, I’d like to start this column by going back to the 12 March Senate. That’s when I presented a paper describing a new collaboration that we in the Faculty of Engineering have been working on with Southwest Jiaotong University (SWJTU) in China for the past year.

The paper described our plans to develop a new joint school at SWJTU, based in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province. The school would allow high-achieving Chinese students to study for dual degrees over four years, taught in English from both Leeds and SWJTU, with the first cohort to commence in 2015. The plans would also give Leeds-based students the opportunity to study in China.

The paper was well received and I was very pleased to hear the positive comments from members of Senate. Much of my time for the rest of that week was spent preparing for a trip to China at the invitation of their Ministry of Education. In parallel with developing the proposals and going through rigorous approval processes at Leeds, with our collaborators at SWJTU we are also going through the approval processes in China. This visit to appear before a Ministry panel was part of that process – and in true Chinese tradition came with just two weeks’ notice! 

Fortunately, both the Vice-Chancellor and I were able to re-schedule our diaries to accommodate a very brief visit to Beijing, accompanied by the University's International Marketing Manager for China, Julia Wang.

We arrived in Beijing on the Wednesday to be greeted by the low cloud and haze that I associated with the city from my only previous visit. The next day, however – the day of the meeting with the Ministry of Education – we had the pleasure of blue sky, sunshine and a temperature of 20 degrees. Our meeting with the Ministry panel was an interesting insight into the different ways in which things are done in China, and it made me appreciate the benefits of the autonomy that we have as UK universities. Nevertheless, the experience was very positive and we were given some excellent advice. Overall, the feedback from both Leeds and Beijing has been that our collaboration, whilst ambitious, is both exciting and worthwhile. Although we’ve not yet had formal notification, the signs are that we’ll soon receive official support for our proposal.

After flying out of Beijing on Thursday night, I was soon back home catching up with emails and doing the final preparations for the Faculty's Integrated Planning Exercise submission which is due in by the end of the month. So, overall it was a rather hectic 10 days but also very rewarding!  

The experience made me reflect on how much we can achieve when everyone pulls together. So thanks are due to the Vice-Chancellor for re-scheduling his diary at such short notice; the International Office for supporting this and previous trips to China – not to mention putting together the paperwork we had to prepare for the Ministry; the Legal Team for being so responsive and helpful (by asking lots of difficult questions!); and to the Faculty Working Group, including all the members from outside the Faculty.

If we’re going to deliver a successful joint school, all this great work will need to continue – the work that we have done so far has brought us to the point where it looks like we’ll soon be given permission to start the next part of journey!

Professor Peter Jimack

Send your comments to

Posted in: