Summer 2019 started with SEE launching a new stream of its well-established Oxford Study Programme – ‘Arts and Humanities: Tradition and Innovation’. For two weeks in July, twenty students selected from some of the leading universities in China were welcomed to the city of spires to do what has been done in Oxford, at the highest level, for centuries.
The programme combined intense and intellectual rewarding lectures series with lively cultural experiences. The lectures explored both Oxford’s rich humanistic, cultural and artistic tradition as well as its role in innovation. Not only did the students have the privilege of being taught by professors who occupy prestigious posts like that once held by J.R. Tolkien, they engaged with cutting edge research regarding, for example, pioneering architectural projects for the city of London. The attendees also had the chance to closely experience several artefacts from the Assyrian and Roman collections of the Ashmolean Museum, which were introduced by curators from major museum collections. Students were informed about different aspects of life in these periods and examined the differences and similarities of those cultures then and now.
In between their studies, our students tasted delicious meals from across the world, as well as the occasional Chinese meal which wiped out any vestige of homesickness. Our friendly staff were the experienced tour guides of Oxford’s ancient streets and colleges, and breath-taking museums. But our students’ British experience extended well beyond Oxford. A day was spent exploring the capital of the country, the timeless city of London. After getting a taste of British royalty at Blenheim Palace, bags were filled with souvenirs from Bicester Village. We even punted through Oxford’s rival city, Cambridge – also known as “the other place”.
These day breaks inspired the end-of-programme projects prepared by each group of students. Each project team was able to demonstrate how lessons from the past (tradition) can contribute to the present (innovation). The thematic revolved around innovative practices that Oxford’s museums could adopt to make the most of their traditional collections, which included representations of leadership in cultural heritage in today’s multi-media age. The research supervisors were thrilled with the high-quality of these projects, all of which received academic prizes in the end-of-programme ceremony. The students’ success was celebrated in the candle-lit hall of one of Oxford’s medieval colleges, where students enjoyed a farewell formal dinner in the company of friends and newly forged academic connections.