This weekend I’ve been in Hong Kong meeting with partners and presiding at a graduation ceremony for 100 or so nurses receiving BSc and MSc awards in nursing and related studies. It was, as always, a fabulous event, with happy graduates and very happy families. It’s a pleasure to celebrate with them.
Our partnership in HK has been operating for a long time now, and continues to be very successful. One significant factor in that success is that we do not share or sub-contract any responsibility for teaching and assessment. The students who join our HK programme are taught by our UK lecturers who fly out for six intensive schools per year. We call it ‘Flying Faculty’ and we have been doing it for nearly 14 years. Flying faculty means that we keep control of the quality of the provision and the delivery and our students get a great learning experience. Our partners know the market inside out, can suggest how we can tailor our programmes to keep one step ahead of competitors; they manage recruitment locally for us, provide teaching facilities, social learning space and a library, and support the students pastorally in their own language and on home ground. It could be a nightmare of confusion and misunderstanding – it is actually an efficient and effective relationship that runs like clockwork.
And that’s the key to it – the relationship. A senior member of staff is dedicated to leading the Programme and goes out to HK for every intensive school. He is the first line of contact for partners, students know who to escalate academic queries to, and he supports staff when they are teaching in HK, particularly staff who are new to the arrangements. There is a pool of teaching staff so that we can ensure that they are teaching both in the UK and HK so learning for the staff is a two way process and neither the courses nor the delivery gets stale. I visit once a year for graduation and for a formal meeting with the partners. We discuss our shared business face to face, they can raise any issues directly with me, and I with them. Trust is high and the relationship is professional. There is no inappropriate friendliness, we don’t socialise together when I am visiting, there is no mutual hospitality. Strong business partnerships require professional, transparent relationships. I have seen overseas partnerships fail because of over familiarity – often because it is tempting to over socialise when overseas. Keeping professional distance is a good lesson to learn – at home and abroad.