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Art students forge Chinese cultural connection

Published: 7 March 2008

While China makes final preparations to host the Olympic Games in Beijing in August, students at the University of Southampton's School of Art have culture rather than sport on their minds as they get ready to visit the country later this month.

Twenty-five undergraduates from Winchester School of Art (WSA) are taking part in the School's first-ever three-week international study placement, which is designed to offer them the opportunity to experience art and design education in China, and to increase international awareness and cultural exchange. The visit will take place between 17 March and 7 April.

The students, from the fine art, graphic arts, and textiles, fashion and fibre programmes, will spend one week at each of three WSA partner institutions in China: Dalian Polytechnic University, Changshu Institute of Technology and Suzhou Art and Design Technology Institute.

During the placement, the students - none of whom have visited China before - will live on campus in halls of residence and work alongside Chinese students on a variety of projects, as well as learn some basic Mandarin Chinese in specially-arranged classes. In Changshu, they will also visit two textile factories to gain a first-hand understanding of textile production processes on a large scale.

The three cities that the students are visiting are all very different. Dalian, in Liaoning Province, is China's northern-most ice-free port and a popular destination for Chinese, Japanese and Korean tourists. Changshu is near Shanghai in Jiangsu Province, which is one of the main textiles production areas in China. Suzhou is also in Jiangsu Province, and is often called the Venice of China because of the network of canals that the city is built around. The city is famous for its silk production.

Beth Salter (22), a second-year student studying graphic arts, whose family home is in Harestock, Winchester, says: "To go to such a culturally different country and work alongside Chinese students who study similar courses to ours is an amazing opportunity. We are getting the chance to stay on campus at three very different universities, one in the North of China and two in the South. I am really looking forward to discovering different aspects of Chinese culture and education. I would never have been able to go on this kind of trip if it had not been organised for us by Winchester School of Art and I am very much looking forward to it!"

Professor Bashir Makhoul, Head of the School of Art, comments: "This is a unique opportunity for our students to enrich their learning experience in a rapidly developing country like China. The placement is part of our continuing support for our students' professional development, as well as opening up opportunities for them in one of the rapidly growing economies of the world.

"We hope that this experience will improve their communication skills and cultural awareness of international art and design education, and that they will continue to build links with their Chinese counterparts after their return home."

Notes for editors

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.

    This is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

    We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

    As one of the UK's top 10 research universities, we offer first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering.

    We have over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover in the region of £325 million.

  • Founded in 1860, Winchester School of Art has an international reputation for research and teaching in art and design, and has links with many other institutions in Europe. WSA merged with the University of Southampton in 1996.

  • For further information contact Sue Wilson, Communications, University of Southampton,
    Tel. 023 8059 5457, email: sjew@soton.ac.uk

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