From education to employment

The benefits of educational partnerships with China

Cath Hurst OBE, BSc (Hons), PGCE, Principal, Wigan & Leigh College

In today’s economy the focus of educating young people in a vocational setting not only sits in the UK but has a wealth of opportunities in the east.

China now has over 25 vocational colleges where there are many opportunities for growth in the sector. The brand of Wigan & Leigh College, a centre of excellence for vocational training, has an established relationship that evolved through links with various agencies, High Schools and vocational colleges in China. This has flourished allowing the innovative approaches of curriculum development within a further education setting. The advantage of working within China generates income for the College but also allows the sharing of knowledge to gain added value to the courses.

The partnership has recently exchanged educational views and shared best practice through a visit by high profile delegates from the Jinzhong Vocational and Technical College visited Wigan & Leigh College meeting Principal, Cath Hurst OBE and International Manager, Phil Mathias and staff.  The delegation included Chenguang Cao, Associate Professor of IT and Baoan Li, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering who spent two weeks training with the College’s highly qualified tutors in IT, Engineering, Motor Vehicle and Graphic Design exchanging teaching techniques.

The College offers both students and staff at the Shanghai Donghue School establishing teacher training programmes. Further partnerships were developed with the Beijing Trade and Commercial School and the Nanjing Institute of Industry and Technology, both being one of the top vocational colleges in China. The growth continued with links with the Shaanxi Banking School and later the Shaanxi Fashion Institute.

In 2008 Wigan & Leigh College established a Confucius Classroom funded by and supported by the headquarters of the Confucius Institute. The Xi’an Bo- Ai International School is the College’s Chinese partner in the Confucius Classroom. The Confucius Institute is a non-profit-making organisation, devoted to promoting the understanding of Chinese language and culture throughout the world, strengthening cultural co-operation and developing friendly relationships between China and other nations. Its Headquarters are based in Beijing, China. The Classroom is open to students and people from across the Wigan borough that are interested in learning about Chinese language and culture. Work has continued through activities within the College at open evenings, festival day and High Schools in Wigan and Leigh. For the past two years the College has celebrated Chinese New Year with the activities that included lion dancers and Chinese calligraphy.

For the past two years and through the links made Wigan & Leigh College have given their students the opportunity to visit China over the summer to promote Chinese culture, visit places of interest and raise awareness and give students a wider understanding of the Chinese way of life.

As the growth in partnerships continued to flourish in 2009 a Chinese Project Manager was appointed by the College. The then newly appointed Principal, Cath Hurst OBE, made her first visit to China to establish working relationships and learn more about the culture and educational systems. Annual monitoring arrangements are also in place to support the curriculum from the professional expertise of the teaching staff at Wigan & Leigh College. The teaching and learning, assessment and quality assurance are key to the success of the partnerships.

In 2011 the Principal, Cath Hurst OBE and several staff visited China to meet the heads of various partner Colleges and attend the China Annual Conference International Education held in Beijing. This culminated visiting new Colleges, the Shaanxi Railway Institute and the Xian Medical University. Speaking about the visit Principal, Cath Hurst OBE said, “I am excited about how we can form effective co-operations which benefit our new partners and the College and ultimately students.  There is a great interest in the UK education system and how skills based learning can be progressed.”

Cath Hurst OBE, BSc (Hons), PGCE, Principal, Wigan & Leigh College


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