In Zusammenarbeit mit der Lanzhou Technical University (China) bietet die Fachhochschule Solothurn im Rahmen des dreijährigen Studiengangs “International Management” (in englischer Sprache) ein Seminar unter dem Projekttitel “Interkulturelle Lernerfahrung”. Gemeinsame Workshops von Studierenden aus China und der Schweiz und von Managern aus beiden Ländern stehen im Zentrum.
Innovatives Lehrprojekt, das einerseits angewandte Forschungsprojekte andererseits interessante wirtschaftliche Perspektiven für den Bereich Fachhochschule eröffnet.
China will be the most important market in the 21st century. The rapid changes, due to political, social, and economic reforms and due to the accession of WTO, create an economic superpower, which will soon lead and control business practices and financial streams in the future.
It is therefore high time to consider China as a partner country. However, successful business exchange will also require the involved countries better understanding of each others cultures. Universities and other educational institutions may play an important role in the further development of intercultural understanding.
The University of Applied Sciences Solothurn (hence UAS Solothurn Nordwestschweiz) has already a long lasting relationship with China. After almost one decade of diplomacy, the connection between Peter A. Abplanalp, Director of the UAS Solothurn, and Chen Weizhong, Director of the Gansu Training Center for Senior Management Officials (GTCSMO) in Lanzhou, is now developing and creating down-to-earth projects. Both were involved in the ToT-Program (Train of Trainers), a program sponsored by the DEZA of the Swiss Foreign Department, providing intercultural and outstanding management skills in executive level.
Since 1998 three delegations of highly ranked political leaders, managers and university representatives of the province of Gansu visited Switzerland and the UAS Solothurn in Olten. The fact that Gansu is one of the poort provinces in China fostered the willingness to learn from Switzerland. However, we were absolutely aware that the sword could turn easily. Although the economy of Switzerland seems to be superior to Gansu’s, the intensive dynamics in China bear knowledge and practices mostly unknown to Swiss leaders and managers. The basis of mutual trust has been laid –now it was the ideal time to harvest the fruits.
The project “Seminar Insight China” by the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland Solothurn was launched just at the right time: UAS Solothurn Nordwestschweiz has definitely understood the important role China will play in the future global economy. Therefore, Swiss students, professors, and other participants have now the possibility to prepare pro-actively for this challenge.
Insight China is the projectile for an increasing interest of the UAS in Asia and in China in particular. Beside the seminar(s), UAS Solothurn Nordwestschweiz aims at setting up a China Hub in Olten, pursuing an Asian competence in business, technical, social, and cultural terms. The seminar differentiates itself from similar competitive offers by having a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, as well as having the location Lanzhou in Northwestern China on the destination map.
The seminar Insight China provides the participants with an interdisciplinary insight into the current China with an off- and on-site seminar, completed by a follow-up. The goal of designing China-experts and making participants sensitive for complicated intercultural issues was with the pilot-seminar 2002 fully achieved. The enthusiasm of the professors and students involved created myriads of synergies and states a valuable milestone in the history of the UAS Solothurn Nordwestschweiz.
With the official powers and universities in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, the starting shot of constructive cooperation was made, and this cooperation is going to deepen fast, due to the basis of mutual trust. All Chinese, European, and Swiss companies visited received the seminar participants courteously and are interested in the further development of the program of Insight China. They are looking forward to welcome the next delegation in the year 2003.
With the Gebert Rüf Foundation, UAS Solothurn Solothurn Nordwestschweiz was grateful to find a funding partner sharing the innovative approach of this seminar. Indeed, the seminar can state a model how future teaching methods might look like. Therefore, the seminar is assessed as an independent teaching module.
Although the initial idea of having external company executives on board did not bloom yet, various interest groups participated in the pilot seminar: Three different departments (International Management, Engineering, and Social Work), professors from these departments respectively (partly looking for research projects in China).
Gebert Rüf Foundation’s contribution served as a successful and essential injection to start up the seminar. Therefore, the main success factor was the actual seminar to take place. It did so in May 2002, during more than two weeks.
Positive echo from all parties involved (in particular from the visited companies in China) reflected the innovative drive which Gebert Rüf Foundation was fostering.
Intensive contacts and talks between the Swiss delegation and officials and professors from both Lanzhou University and Lanzhou University of Technology triggered initial talks about joint projects in research and development.
To do onsite-research on certain topics, interdisciplinary groups were formed. The reports of the assignments are available under http://http://www.hsw.fhso.ch/im.
In particular, these reports analyze hot topics in business, social studies, and technology, as far as China is concerned:
- Guanxi and Management: Recommendations for Western Managers and Companies Entering the Chinese Market
- Gansu as an Entry Point for Swiss SMEs
- The Lurking Consulting Potential at Chinese State-Owned Enterprises
- The Chinese Supply Chain Cluster
These reports give insights into the hot topics and draw conclusions on which further studies on China by the UAS Solothurn can and will base. Furthermore, the assignments followed a transdisciplinary approach, since each group was mixed with students from the three different disciplines (business administration, engineering, and social work).
The positive feedback from the seminar-participants exceeds the expectations of the seminar leaders. Via a structured survey, weaknesses in organization and content were identified, and will be considered while planning Insight China 2003 in order to improve the seminar quality.
The UAS Solothurn pursues its China objectives. Three diploma-thesis in 2002 treated China-related topics, whereas two of those were written onsite in China. The importance and relevance of China is now clearly identified and accepted by the UAS Solothurn, and with increasing commitment, its efforts embrace more and more China. To not lose track within the fast-changing environment, the UAS Solothurn sent a scientific assistant to Shanghai for an onsite research about Mergers and Acquisitions in China.
Publication in the Bulletin of the Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, December 2002: “Insight China 2002, The First Shot of a Growing Competence”