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Ding Lei, MSc International Business and Management 2004

Manager, University of Bradford China and East Asia Office

Ding Lei, MSc International Business and Management 2004

About thirteen years ago, Ding Lei decided to take some advice given to him by his mother's friend to go and study abroad. He chose Bradford as his preferred destination to study for an MSc in International Business and Management. After graduating in 2004, he soon found himself promoting UK education in China. This led to him reconnecting with his alma mater and he is now managing the University of Bradford's China and East Asia Office. We caught up with Ding Lei to find out more about his journey as a student, coming to the UK, a graduate, and now as an employee of Bradford.


What made you choose the University of Bradford for your MSc Degree?

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the Northeastern University which is one of the best Chinese universities. As a result, I got quite a few offers from UK institutions and I chose Bradford due to the excellent ranking of the School of Management and in particular for my subject area which was International Business and Management. My online research also revealed that the cost of living in Bradford, compared to say living in London, was more economical and this was therefore also an influencing factor in my decision.

What is your fondest memory of the University?

Lister Park was one of my favourite places. I played a lot of tennis and basketball in the park and enjoyed relaxing by the small lake in the park, which is very beautiful. The School of Management campus is very beautiful and I often tell others about how beautiful it is - it’s like a castle actually!

I also made a number of friends during my time at University, many of whom I am still in contact with today. One of my closest classmates from University is also based in Beijing and we sometimes meet up to have dinner together.

What did you think of Bradford itself? How would you describe the city to others?

I remember a fellow student who described Bradford in a sentence and that was absolutely the same feeling I had for the city. He said to me that one of his tutors said “Bradford is the best-kept secret in Yorkshire” which means there are a lot of things that have not been discovered or exposed to international students.

What do you enjoy about being an alumnus of Bradford?

As alumni we have an important role to play to promote Bradford around the world. I would like to set up a platform for Bradford alumni to share information, network and stay in touch. We have more than 2,500 Bradford alumni in mainland China and more than 5,000 alumni across the greater China Region. This provides great potential for an alumni network to enable graduates to benefit from each other in terms of job hunting and networking. I think we could do this using a social network like WeChat as it is a hugely popular platform in China.

How did you come to work for the University of Bradford?

My move into higher education in a work capacity was quite unexpected. After my graduation, I secured a job as an International Officer with London Metropolitan University based in China. Interestingly, even when I was working at London Metropolitan University, deep down I had always wanted to work for Bradford. Why? Because as a marketer you always want to promote or sell a product that you like and believe in and this is how I feel about Bradford having experienced the University myself.

After two years with London Metropolitan I joined Teeside University and in 2012 I saw an advert for a position with Bradford as a China-based manager and did not hesitate to apply. The experience I had gained at London Metropolitan and Teeside helped me to secure the role and I have been with Bradford since the very beginning of the launch of the China Office in Beijing in 2012.

Tell us about your current role with Bradford - What does it involve?

My current job title is Manager of the University of Bradford China and East Asia Office covering mainland china, plus Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. My remit covers marketing, recruitment, alumni engagement, business development and research. The key focus is very much on student recruitment and establishing a strong pool of Chinese students for Bradford. Other objectives include building a platform for alumni and developing research partnerships in the region.

What’s a typical day for you?

Every day is different. Sometimes I am travelling across the country or to other parts of East Asia, sometimes I am based in the office. We also work to develop new partners so I’m often meeting to discuss and explore opportunities for collaboration between Bradford and other institutions and organisations in China, or Korea or in Japan.

At certain points of the year, during recruitment season, I need to travel to attend recruitment fairs and exhibitions promoting the University of Bradford. A key part of my work during the summer months is focussed on conversion of applicants to students for Bradford. We deliver a student preparation service which helps students get ready for their enrolment and travel to Bradford which includes supporting them in their preparations and chasing up necessary paperwork and documentation. Then there are, of course, many skype calls and communications with the team back in Bradford. I am always in regular contact with everyone in the UK.

What are the challenges of working in your region?

There are cultural differences between the UK and China and also in the way people think within the East Asia region itself. For example, though China shares a very similar culture and lifestyle with neighbouring Hong Kong and Taiwan, there are political differences which can create challenges. For Japan and Korea, there are a few cultural similarities with China although there is the language barrier and sometimes we need to be aware of differences in local behaviours.

I am keen to involve alumni support in the region to help us overcome some of the challenges. Alumni have much to offer. Their experiences of studying with Bradford represent a powerful tool to help us to communicate with and support current and future students from the region for example to support the pre-departure preparation process.

Have you worked in any other parts of the world? If you have, how did those countries differ from working in China?

Companies in mainland China and those based in Hong Kong and Taiwan have similar perspectives on business and work. People work really hard and have a work-oriented approach to life. In Korea and Japan people work even more hours. I think this is down to the people in general having a real hard-working ethic.

There are also differences in communication styles and how people express their feelings. For example people from the UK tend to communicate indirectly. If someone from the UK says “Take your time” they more than likely mean “you need to hurry up” whereas in mainland China or in Korea or Japan they actually mean “take your time, no need to hurry”.


Published May 2017