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Interview: University of Chester VC hails China link

Description:China's Belt and Road Initiative will create a two-way street between the east and west, the leader of the University of Chester has told Xinhua.

China's Belt and Road Initiative will create a two-way street between the east and west, the leader of the University of Chester has told Xinhua.

The university's vice chancellor and principal Timothy Wheeler heads a university that sits on the English side of the border with Wales, based in a city steeped in history.

With 20,000 students, every one of them known by name to the staff, Chester is one of Britain's smaller universities. But under Wheeler's stewardship it has big ideas and big ambitions.

While Chester is proud of its historic past, Wheeler looks to the part being played by China on the 21st century world stage.


With Brexit fast approaching, Wheeler is eager to foster even greater links with China, inspired by the eight visits he has made to the country over recent years.

That has prompted him to foster close links with around seven or eight Chinese universities.

But it is the rapid development in China and the Belt and Road initiative that impress the academic with a degree in psychology.

"Our activity in China gave us a much greater understanding, so ... when the idea of Belt and Road (came into being), we were aware of that. It was probably the last 18 months that people have become aware of all of the implication of Belt and Road," said Wheeler.

Wheeler said: "If you look at global politics, you have China as a major emerging world power particularly economically."

He added: "From Britain's point of view, as we leave the European Union, whether with a hard break or hopefully with a soft break, we will inevitably look to world trade. One of the significant players in the world trade is China."

In the eight or nine years he's been going to China, Wheeler has seen the development of high speed rail in China.

"There are new ideas, plans for not only 330 km/h, but 500 km/h, and that research is actually being undertaken in China," he said. "The precision, the speed, the time... all of those I think probably will be a major opportunity for China when we build our high-speed rail line here in Britain."

"I wouldn't be very surprised if China wins the contract because of the technology is now so advanced," he said.


Famed for its city walls, Chester was home 2,000 years ago to one of the main army fortresses in Roman Britain. The ruins of a one-time amphitheater are a reminder of the Romans who once conquered and ruled Britain.

Wheeler very cannily expanded the university estate with new campuses, bought during the recession, and now paying dividends for the university.

When the oil giant Shell decided to close its extensive research facility just a few kilometers outside Chester, Wheeler stepped in and bought the whole complex, for less than 2 U.S. dollars.

"When Shell decided not to continue as actively in research they sold us their international research center which has 110,000 square meters of buildings and covers 40 hectares.

"We've been able to develop courses in energy engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, as well as some fairly sophisticated working in software engineering and software development," he said, adding that those are the strengths of the university, that's what set itself aside from other university.

It's a sign of the ambitions of a university that almost 180 years ago started life as the first teacher training college in Britain.

Today teacher training accounts for less than 10 percent of its academic activity, with courses that have earned a double gold standard from Ofsted, Britain's official education watchdog.

Its large faculty of Health and Social Care is renowned for training tomorrow's nurses and midwives.

Source:Xinhua  Editor:Lucky

(Source_title:Interview: University of Chester VC hails China link )