Around 20 students from SMU enrol on Plymouth courses and programmes every year, with many coming on the three-plus-one undergraduate arrangement and then staying to enrol as a postgraduate student.
Yu Hongrong, Director of the International Office at SMU, says: “More than 200 SMU students have now been to Plymouth for professional study or summer schools. In their study reports after returning to SMU, they all express that the amiable and helpful teachers and the inspiring teaching and learning styles impressed them deeply. Through the cooperative programmes, they had not only improved their English language skills and professional competence, but also enhanced their understanding of British culture and society and acquired international perspectives.”
Jingjing adds: “For many universities, a relationship such as the one we enjoy with SMU would be viewed as an opportunity solely to recruit more students. But we’re leveraging it more broadly, most notably in the form of the summer school, which has been a huge success.”
Launched in August 2011, the summer school initially saw nearly 60 SMU students fly to the South West for a month-long programme. The following year, it became reciprocal, and this year, 130 students are swapping places for a programme based around language learning, cultural exchange and broadening understanding of societal and economic issues.
The universities fund the cost of the trip for their students, with the exception of the flights, and Plymouth provides lessons in Mandarin to prepare the chosen students for the experience. For some, it is a voyage of discovery.
“One of my favourite stories came two years ago when a mature student from Plymouth took with him a photo of the house where his mum grew up,” says Jingjing. “At the weekends he would get on buses and look for it – and after searching many, many streets, he found it. He ended up doing a presentation, and the people at SMU were amazed and touched – and his mum was delighted as well.”
Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor David Coslett recently accompanied the International Office on a visit to SMU, and met the leadership team – including Vice-President Professor Yongxing Jin, whose daughter studied at Plymouth. With its stunning campus, complete with an aquatic training centre, a ship simulator that dwarfs our own, and a 10,000-tonne container ship for teaching and internship training, SMU has travelled a long way since it was founded in 1909 as the Shipping Section of Shanghai Industrial College. And its progress is being followed keenly from these shores.