Tuesday 03 March 2015

His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge was the guest of honour at the British Council’s inaugural Education UK Alumni Awards for China, in a ceremony today in Shanghai.

The Duke, on his first visit to China, met with the finalists and congratulated them on their outstanding achievements. He also thanked all UK alumni in China for their important contribution to strengthening ties between the UK and China.

Launched by the British Council, the Education UK Alumni Awards recognise and honour the achievements of UK alumni all over the world. Due to the large number of Chinese students in the UK – more than 135,000 – China was chosen as one of the first countries to be included in the event, alongside the US and India, with more countries to be added in the following years. 

The British Ambassador to China, Her Excellency Ms Barbara Woodward, who was also present at the event, said: “It was very inspiring to attend the Education UK Alumni Awards and see such outstanding individuals who have excelled not only as students, but also as professional, entrepreneurial and social leaders following their graduation. Their accomplishments are testament to their talent, the quality of a UK education and the benefits of spending time abroad.

In addition to the award presentations, it was officially announced that Zhang Xin, CEO of SOHO China, will be the British Council’s UK Alumni Ambassador, a role she was invited to take on as she embodies all three of the award values, which recognise professional achievement, entrepreneurship, and social impact.

 Speaking in a video message shown during the event, Ms Zhang, who herself is a UK alumni from the University of Cambridge and has set up a foundation to support Chinese students studying abroad, said:

“Education has the power to transform people’s lives. The winners of this year’s Education UK Alumni Awards are excellent examples of how a UK education produces outstanding individuals who possess the competitive edge to thrive in a globalised job market. I am delighted to have the opportunity as UK Alumni Ambassador to share the power of education with young people and to encourage them to consider studying in the UK as a means to reaching their full potential.”

Three winners were selected from more than 400 candidates who applied themselves or were nominated by UK institutions for three award categories. Each of the winners were chosen based on the strength of their written submission and interviews with a judging panel.  University College London, Cardiff University, and the London School of Economics were the host universities of the winning Chinese alumni.

The Professional Achievement Award, for alumni who have distinguished themselves through exemplary leadership and achievements in their professional industry, was presented to Dr Tina Liu from University College London. Dr Liu, Senior Consultant and Country Manager – China at the UK’s Drewry Shipping Consultants, played a key role in establishing the company’s presence in China.

Dr Liu attributes her success with Drewry to the time she spent studying the UK. “The communication skills you learn in the UK and the international understanding is paramount. Being able to convey messages to different people in different countries efficiently is absolutely critical. This was a skill I learnt in the UK,” she said. “The UK gives you the confidence to achieve things. I now believe in myself and that’s something I have taken from my UK experience.”

The Entrepreneurial Award, for alumni who have succeeded in launching new business opportunities with strong growth prospects, was presented to Mr Zhao Xinyu from Cardiff University. Mr Zhao is the founder and chief executive of Bang Travel, an e-commerce enterprise that provides Chinese self-guided travel services.

Mr Zhao said studying for a master’s degree in the UK instilled him with an enthusiasm for management and the entrepreneurial spirit to found his own business.

The Social Impact Award, for alumni who have made an exceptional contribution to creating positive social change and improving the lives of others, was presented to Ms Wang Weikang from London School of Economics and Political Science, who is the Low Carbon Business Director at Elion Carbon Inc. Before joining Elion Carbon Inc., Ms Wang led a campaign at Greenpeace to encourage international retailers to commit to more environment-friendly policies.

Ms Wang said her experience of studying in the UK was the catalyst for her desire to work in environmental protection at a global level. “Studying in the UK taught me to care about wider issues, such as global environmental and social challenges.”

Carma Elliot, CMG OBE, Minister (Culture and Education), Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Beijing, and Director, British Council China, who closed the event, said: “We had the opportunity to celebrate some remarkable people at the Education UK Alumni Awards, peoplewho have taken their UK education as a starting point to excel in many different and diverse fields of endeavour, shaping the world and sharing their passion with those around them. Today’s event demonstrates the value of education in building a foundation of trust and mutual understanding between the UK and China, and the importance of alumni in inspiring the next generation of leaders to use their skills and knowledge, gained through a UK education, to address some of the global issues and challenges we face in this modern age. With more than 135,000 Chinese studying in the UK, we have a lot to celebrate.” 

Notes to Editor

Please credit photos of HRH the Duke of Cambridge to: British Council

The award ceremony took place at the Intercontinental Ruijin Hotel in Shanghai on the afternoon of Tuesday 3 March 2015.

Photos of the Chinese winners are also available

About the Education UK Alumni Awards

More information on the 2015 Education UK Alumni Awards and the winners is available here: http://www.britishcouncil.org/education-uk-awards

About Zhang Xin

Zhang Xin co-founded SOHO China in 1995. As CEO, she has led the company to become the largest developer of prime office real estate in China. Widely credited with revolutionising Beijing’s architectural landscape, Zhang Xin’s visionary achievements have distinguished her as a creative force for China.

Born in Beijing in 1965, Zhang Xin moved to Hong Kong at the age of 14 where she labored as a factory girl for five years before making her way to the UK. There, she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of Sussex and a master’s degree in development economics from the University of Cambridge. After working in investment banking for Goldman Sachs and Travelers Group, she returned to Beijing to co-found SOHO China.

Zhang Xin is deeply involved in philanthropy. In 2005 she and her husband Pan Shiyi established the SOHO China Foundation, a charity organisation guided by the mission of advancing education as a means for alleviating poverty. In 2014, the SOHO China Foundation launched the SOHO China Scholarships, a $100 million initiative supporting financial aid for Chinese students at leading international universities.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides less than 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally. 

We operate as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Beijing and Cultural and Education Section of the British Consulate-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing. Our Exams work across China operates as a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org