Malleable Musings

December 4, 2011

HE Global

The Chancellor’s Autumn statements last Tuesday had a couple of impacts for Higher Education.  However it wasn’t the  £200 million boost to science funding that caught my eye.  It was paragraph A 80 of the Autumn Statement Document.

Education export opportunities – The Government will launch HE Global, an online portal providing information and advice to higher education (HE) institutions on expanding abroad. It will also develop a vehicle to bring together government, the HE sector and industry expertise to package and sell education offers overseas.

My initial reaction was, “Oh great – another website.”  Then I thought about the timing.  The Autumn Statement was delivered on the first day of the EducationUK Partnership meeting, probably the leading conference for those working in UK HE international student recruitment.  From talking to colleagues who attended I don’t think HE Global was mentioned to delegates in Edinburgh.

This therefore sounded like it would be a UKTI-led initiative whose usefulness would depend on who was actually doing the work.  When I was doing international office type work I never really found the UKTI to be all that helpful.  Most of their staff didn’t really seem to understand the issues that HE institutions face when working overseas, or what they are trying to achieve.  I’d used them in the past to arrange Ambassador’s receptions and I also read their briefing notes, like these ones for Singapore (2010 and 2011).  For me these Singapore notes are particularly interesting as I’d sat through intelligence gathering meetings between UKTI consultants and Singaporean HEIs, having been invited in to the meetings by the Singaporeans.

Therefore I was gladdened to see a note on the International Unit website on Friday saying that HE Global is an initiative that they are involved with.  From the site:

The HE Global is a web portal and will give users:

  • better knowledge of foreign market opportunities,
  • clearer and coordinated services of government and partners’ services,
  • better understanding of foreign quality assurance and accrediting systems,
  • access to finance and insurances to reduce risks and
  • access to key information to help HEIs assess risks and carry out due diligence before undertaking TNE activities.

Points 2-5 certainly look interesting therefore I’ve already emailed Alex and will be watching out for the launch on 25th Jan.


November 28, 2011


Filed under: International Student Recruitment — Brendan @ 6:38 am

The 1994 Group recently released a new report, Strategies and trends in the internationalisation of UK universities (pdf).

It’s a pretty straightforward read and has already generated a few headlines in the trade press, of the sort that there is scope for research-intensives to set up abroad and that the Government needs to do more to help universities internationally.  This certainly isn’t a new idea, several people have criticized the White Paper for not covering the international aspects adequately.  Indeed Million+ did a report entitled International Higher Education: Missing an Opportunity? (pdf) a long time before the White Paper’s release.

However what caught my eye within the 1994 Group report were the graphs which were based on the offshore student instance count.  This has been carried out by HESA since 2007/8 so there are now three years of data.  However the data in the first year was extremely patchy, as if I remember correctly it was a voluntary return.

Whilst the data quality will have improved over the past few years I’m still not that sure it’s that useful for comparative purposes.  The problem is the inconsistency in the use of definitions between institutions.  This is something the 1994 Group report recognises, point (ii) of Annex B.  [As an aside point (iv) in this Annex is wrong,  University of London International Programmes data is not all submitted to HESA via the Colleges.]

Anyway this is figure 6 from the 1994 Group report.

Figure 6

This lead to the statements like the following.

The Russell Group stands out as the clear leader in campus based offshore provision, but also has a fair amount of distance and flexible learning.

The 1994 Group report had already picked Oxford Brookes as a bit of an outlier.  So I wondered what would happen if we removed one institution from each mission group and came up with the following graph.  (Leicester, Nottingham and Sunderland in case you are wondering.)

Revised Figure 6

As you see a slightly different picture emerges.  Among other things it made me wonder whether there is much that can actually be said at the mission group level or if these rough groupings are already quite broad churches.

July 13, 2010

Chatham House

Filed under: International Student Recruitment, strangely uncategorised — Brendan @ 8:06 pm

I was up at the University of Nottingham on Friday. Unfortunately there’s no sensible train route from where I live to Nottingham, so I had to drive and that morning the A453 in to Nottingham was blocked solid. It took me well over two hours to cover the 45 miles. Thankfully I’d allowed myself plenty of time, as I was hoping to do a bit of work in the Library, before the event I was going to started. As it was I arrived with seconds to spare – just managing to grab a coffee, pick up my delegate pack and walk straight in to the session. On the plus side I did get to listen to this excellent recording (mp3) of Chuck Hester talking about Linked In. Linked In is a network that I visit once in a while but am certainly not resident in. I’ve never really used it that actively. Many years ago I tried it, I even answered the odd question but I didn’t really manage to connect to a many people. However I think it’s undergoing a bit of a revival. I’ve noticed in the past six months or so that a lot of people seem to be using it more. I don’t know if this is due to the economy (people wanting to make sure they are visible for employment purposes) or if it is down to mobile devices with Linked In Apps becoming more popular. However, Chuck’s talk has made me resolve to give it another go.

The event I was at was called the International Partnership Development Forum, it’s set up as a sharing platform for staff within International Offices who deal with educational partnerships that their Universities enter. I always enjoy meeting people from other institutions who work in a similar arena to myself. Interestingly they have their own Linked In group but it’s not very active yet.

In terms of the session, I may be being overly critical but it seemed to me to be very Partnerships 101 / International 101. I suppose I learnt a few things but I’m not sure it was really worth my time.

What I found interesting, but not surprising about the event, was that we were told the Chatham House rule was in operation. Oh great I thought – more secrets to keep. However I discovered after the event that for the past however many years I’ve misunderstood the Chatham House rule. For some reason I’d always made the assumption that it meant that whatever was under discussion stayed within the room. In fact it means nothing of the sort and you can even tweet.

June 19, 2010

Back to Africa / back to Facebook

Filed under: Facebook, International Student Recruitment — Brendan @ 9:11 pm

I’ve always had a bit of love affair with Africa.  So when I was pressured by my boss in to going to Ghana this week, I didn’t resist too hard.  Especially given that this is the year that Africa gains the recognition of hosting the World Cup.

It’s nine or ten years since I was last in Ghana and whilst I always consider Ghana as West Africa for beginners (it’s just less chaotic than elsewhere) I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

I loved meeting our students and alumni, and I caught a few moments to listen to some African drummers, who were performing outside my hotel at some sort of corporate function.

I also loved the football atmosphere.  There were signs of the world cup everywhere – from football pitches on the ground in the airport, to the flags of all of the nations involved all around the bars, to people selling football strips in the streets to cars carrying Ghanaian flags.

One of the objectives of the visit was to try and foster a better relationship with our alumni, and current students.  We had set up various events and so last Saturday during the first England game I set up a Facebook page to see if it would help promote the recruitment activities  and if it could be used to help foster an online community for students and alumni.  I had a Google Adwords voucher so I set up a few ads aimed at my target demographic and did a few Facebook ads as well.  This took a bit longer that I thought it would – primarily because the interface has changed so much on Google since I last used it via the web (about two years ago).  I ran the ads for a few days after we arrived and for a total cost of around £30 I’d had around 3/4m ad impressions and around 600 clicks through to the facebook fan page.  This meant that by the time I arrived in Ghana the following day there were already around 35 page ‘likers’ / fans.

Unfortunately whilst internet connectivity in West Africa has definitely moved on.  My personal connectivity hadn’t.  It was a bit of a hit and miss affair as to whether I could get on the internet.  When I did get online I generally couldn’t upload large files.  In all it meant that my ability to update statuses and drive interaction and traffic was a little limited.

It was therefore a bit of a bizarre coincidence that when I returned to the office yesterday that my first meeting of the day was a meeting about an official Facebook page.  Having just got in after a long flight I probably wasn’t in the best of form for such a meeting and my initial reaction was that there were far too many people in the room.  However I soon changed this view to being that some of the most important people hadn’t even been invited. I guess it comes back to the old problem of who owns stakeholder communications – and the answer is everyone.

March 10, 2010

Flipping the HigherEd Funnel

Filed under: International Student Recruitment, Social Media — Brendan @ 11:29 pm

Early last week I listened to a podcast on which Joseph Jaffe talked about some of his thinking in his latest book and I was left thinking “yeah, I’m not really sure how new this is but he seems to make sense, I wonder how much of this applies in a Higher Education (HE) context”. Then later in the week I saw a series of tweets from Mark Greenfield who was attending a webinar run by Powered, Jaffe’s company. Mark seemed to be thinking in the same way to me.

Then later in the week, last Friday, I sat through an all-staff Marketing Division Briefing at the University I work with. It covered the internal changes in the University and anticipated changes in the operating environment. I think the key phrase was this will be a period of “cuts and austerity”.

Then there was a sort of mini-marketing lesson. It was fairly standard stuff. It included the difference between Marketing Communications and Marketing as a whole – a topic that I’d often rail about. The lesson was necessary as the Division is actually really large and includes staff from Admissions, Alumni Relations, MarComms, Student Recruitment, Press & PR and the International Office who may not have had a formal marketing training or background.

Most of the lesson centred on the importance of differentiation and brevity of messaging. There was quite a bit about the importance of being first.

e.g. Everyone knows who Yuri Gargarin is but the guy on the left was apparently the third man in space (I say apparently as I found out later it depends a bit on your definition of space). Unsurprisingly no-one knew his name?

What about the 49th UK Prime Minister? She might be better known as the first female UK Prime Minister, mightn’t she?

The point was then made that many university marketing straplines and positioning statements are similar to that used by the Flight of the Concords. Compare “Ranked 6th best for student employment performance for non-specialist higher education institutions in England”; “Fourth for the highest average graduate starting salaries”; “Ranked in the top 5 best modern universities”; with “Formerly New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.”

From that there was then a vague UK university branding map the Elite (Oxbridge) at one end and the New Universities at the other. This lead on to the New Elite positioning. etc, etc.

What surprised me was that another UK university was mentioned alongside Oxbridge as an elite university. I initially thought this was just a slip of the tongue. However, from a conversation over a coffee later in the day I started thinking that it might not be.

This was particularly interesting for me because when I started looking for a job closer to home in Spring/Summer’08 I’d had a couple of interviews at this university to head up Student Recruitment.

I obviously didn’t get the job, which at the time I was very upset about, but now I’m happy with as my current role is far more up my street.

However, as part of this interview process I had to present on their new corporate strategy which ran to 2015 (seven years in the future) and the implications of this strategy. I was presenting to a group of staff – who would have either been my peers, or working to me.   It was a fairly standard-ish presentation covering how the future was fairly unpredictable and to demonstrate this I looked back at what has happened in the previous seven years (top-up fees; the twin towers attacks and it’s impacts on the international education market; an explosion of Chinese students on the campus of the university; communication changes including the rise of the web, email and mobile phones; the effect of their recent rise up the league tables etc.) and what this meant as their recruitment funnels changed shape. I went on to explain some of the challenging targets in the strategy and how I felt we would need to future-proof ourselves….

After the presentation one of the questions that I was asked was something like, how do you think our exhibition booth should look to differentiate ourselves at UCAS recruitment fairs? The question was obviously being asked of everyone. I seem to remember giving a fairly glib response and then asking a question back, “How important are UCAS recruitment fairs going to be to this University in the future?”

So how does this story fit with Jaffe’s Flip the Funnel?

Well, Jaffe has written a business book based on the premise that “Customer retention is totally overlooked and is in fact the new acquisition.”

He explains it in this short video.

I don’t like using the word customers, I prefer students, but I’ll buy that Higher Education is a business, maybe a business in need of radical change, but still a business.   My view is that in the vast majority of the world the qualification and the educational/student experience are commodities that are purchased – although I realise that this may not sit comfortably for many educators. (e.g. I listened to George Siemens at TEDxNYED at the weekend say something like if education draws heavily from corporations, I don’t want any part of it.)

However, unlike many industries the Higher Education Business is usually a significant one-off purchase. This means that some of the Jaffe’s soundbites about returning customers don’t seem quite that applicable* e.g.

12% of all Coca-Cola customers account for 80% of Coca-Cola Classic sales

75% of Zappos‘ revenue comes from returning customers

* at least not in student recruitment, although I can see some of them fitting well with other roles in HE, like alumni relations/giving.

In HE students (our customers) don’t usually come back for seconds and there is selection process that works both ways.  We are often recruiting with an eye on the quality and diversity of the intake, or to meet specific targets imposed either by physical limits or a regulatory environment.

In contrast, most businesses aren’t fussy about who their customers are.   (Although, I’m sure it does happen on occasion, e.g. I watched an episode of the brilliant 1950’s set Mad Men TV show, and there was a storyline about a TV manufacturer called Admiral not wanting to advertise to “Negroes”.)

However, these differences shouldn’t lead the HE community to entirely dismiss the concepts and stories that Jaffe is promoting. For example, on the recruitment side it is easy for selecting universities to over-invest in awareness by not pushing their points of differentiation or by attending fairs and advertising in specific publications and partaking in other promotional activity simply because that’s what others are doing.  Whilst retention of the right prospects through the conversion funnel and converting these “right prospects” is often underplayed.

Detractors (e.g. United Breaks Guitars) and promoters are more important than ever before.  Changes in communications have allowed people to express their satisfaction, and more likely dissatisfaction, to large numbers of people far more easily and quickly than in the past.

Jaffe is definitely on to something when he says what’s needed is  content, conversation and commendation.  He says we need to give our promoters a megaphone.  A sentiment with which I couldn’t agree more.

He’s also quick to push the customer experience to counter detractors.  In a rough approximation of his words, Customer Service is the new Marketing/PR and it can be a revenue generator but it’s “not your grandfather’s customer service.” It’s alive and it certainly shouldn’t stop at 5pm on Friday.

To me this is Moments of Truth played in public, in real time, often over the web.  Yes we need to build fantastic customer service, which requires an ongoing commitment, but we need to back this up with as near to a real time 24/7 monitoring service as we can afford.  My view is that this should incorporate formal processes as well as we have a duty of care for all students not just those with the loudest voices.  This monitoring / feedback process then needs to be triaged.  Issues and problems need to acknowledged, evaluated and routed with serious issues escalated to appropriate decision makers so that responses can be made as quickly as possible.  (In HE not all decisions can be made quickly, especially if a committee is involved, as they often are.)

One of the tweets I saw from Mark asked “Where does “customer service” organizationally reside in #highered?”  Well, my guess is it has to be distributed.  OK, there may well be within my university a Student Experience Committee but it’s the entire staff (including academic, administrative, technical and any other type of staff member) that provide the service.  These people will be considered by the student to be the organisation.  They are the brand*.  And, like or not, that means that they market the institution whether they know it or not.

* People are the brand, this tweet came up during the webinar. I think it has important implications for how brands should use social media and the importance of meshing personal, professional and corporate messages.

Hard to have a relationship w/ a biz. People want to talk to people, not to the “brand”

In conclusion, I’m not sure how new or original Jaffe’s thoughts are.  Especially if your starting point is that marketing is about identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.  The world is obviously changing.  Customers have a bigger voice than they ever have had in the past  and some of Jaffe’s stories and concepts help illustrate this well.  I’d love to read the book, but I’m realistic and know that unless it’s an audiobook I probably need to wait until I next take another holiday or a flight.

I’m sure there are other implications for HE that I’ve missed so I’d be interested in others’ thoughts.

November 8, 2009

A spot of tourism

Filed under: International Student Recruitment — Brendan @ 10:43 am


Education UK Exhibition in Athens

Our stand at the Education UK Exhibition in Athens

As predicted yesterday was a long but enjoyable day.  I had a few emails to send in the morning and then I was down at the exhibition from around noon.  The exhibition started slowly but it got busy by about 3pm and then we had a fairly constant flow of people all the way through until 7.30pm.  At the exhibition I got to meet our partners here in Athens, who support about 500 or so of the university’s students.  After the exhibition finished we were taken out for a lovely meal on the seafront in South Attica.  Over dinner we were chatting about various things.  Predictably I was lightly grilled about who was I, what was my experience, where did I think the university was headed strategically etc. (of which I’m sure there will be more today and tomorrow.   However we also ended up in a wide ranging conversation involving politics, international relations, the differences between the genders, Greek life and culture, approaches to education and the role of bodies like the QAA.  It was a really fascinating conversation.

After dinner my colleague and I took a taxi back to the hotel, getting back just before midnight.  He was shattered and went straight off to bed but I decided I had to go up and see the bar at the top of my hotel from which there are fabulous view across to the Acropolis.  The bar was heaving and there were hundreds of people crammed in trying to get a drink and something to eat.  There was also thumping music.  I took one look and decided I probably wouldn’t stay.

Instead I decided to get up early in the morning as I knew that this might be my only chance to get some sightseeing done.  So in the rain I set off up to the Acropolis.  I got there early, before the gates were opened, and took in some of the sights of Athens on the way.  There were a couple of Americans and a Greek who were there early.  The Greek guy explained that all of the archaeological sites in Athens seem to be free on Sundays (at least at this time of the year).    The three of us rushed in and made our way up to the top.  The Greek guy was talking photos of Athens on the way up.  Whilst the Americans were also sauntering a little, taking in the views.  This meant that I arrived up at the Parthenon well before them and had the entire hilltop more or less to myself.  It was humbling standing in the rain on the top of the hill admiring the amazing structures that were built nearly two and a half thousand years ago.

In the distance you could hear bells ringing.  There were all sorts of different tunes.  Unfortunately the only camera I had was my iPhone so the pictures I took aren’t that great (I still need to sort and tag these properly), nor is the recording (M4A download) I made of one of the bell chimes.

Anyway must go – nearly time to be a stand bunny again.


November 6, 2009

Face to face

Filed under: Commuting, International Student Recruitment — Brendan @ 7:13 am

I saw this poster at Heathrow this morning and it struck me as being quite apt (especially because when I first started in my current job a number of people referred to me as the contracts guy).

It should probably come as no surprise that I don’t think of myself in that way.  I think my role is about listening and understanding our staff, our partners, our influencers and most importantly our students and then advocating to, for and with the university’s partners. But this is probably a different story.

I sort of disagree with the statement in this advert, but I do agree with the sentiment.  I’m a great advocate for using technology to allow the face to face communication to happen where possible.  However sometimes you really do need to meet in-person.

And this is why I was quite happy to be at Heathrow this morning at silly o’clock jumping on a flight.  I love travelling as it allows me quiet relatively undisturbed thinking time.  So on the drive down and whilst waiting in the airport I got the opportunity to do a little bit of work.  However I allowed myself to be sidetracked a bit on the flight by a delightful in-flight movie, “Julie & Julia” about a blogger re-creating every recipe from a book by a cook called Julia Child (who is played by a brilliantly over the top Meryl Streep).  I wished I’d given it my full attention and watched it properly as I think it would have been the perfect way to spend  flight and unwind.

It’s going to a busy week, as it’s not just about meetings with our partners.  I’ve also got four days of being a stand bunny both here in Athens and then in Nicosia.  I was hoping to have a bit of time this afternoon to have a quick wander out to see the Acropolis.  I didn’t, as I had to set up our stand this afternoon, send a few emails (that I wrote on the plane) and then attend a British Council briefing session.  I hope I’ll get a bit of time on Sunday morning.

It has been an interesting day for me that’s been full of reflections.  I’d begun to think about a few things and make a few mental notes about the market on the subway journey in to the city centre.

Then, when I went in to the exhibition hall to prepare our stand this afternoon I saw that a Open University in Greece stand was in a prime position.  And then when I got back to my room after the British Council briefing I saw that Brenda Gourley was speaking at #educause09 (quite an interesting hashtag that I’d been following for the past couple of days).   I watched the video for a while and there was quite a lot of interesting stuff, especially I would think for an American audience, who may not be familiar with the Open University.

One of the key issues that I picked up on, was Brenda talking about the need for collaboration with partners for delivery as a survival strategy in the global context.

I’ve heard Brenda speak several times but unfortunately this time I wasn’t able to hear her finish.  It had got to about 8:30pm and neither my colleague or I had eaten since breakfast on our flight in the morning.

However interestingly at dinner my colleague raised the importance of meeting our partners face to face.  His quote was something like, “One meeting is worth a thousand exchanged emails.”  So I showed him the photo I took this morning.  He smiled, said yes that’s it, and it felt like a circle had completed.

August 17, 2009

Reflections on Exchange Rates (II)

Filed under: International Student Recruitment — Brendan @ 2:32 am

When I was in Hong Kong earlier in the year I noticed how the changes in foreign exchange rates would have affected our business.  It has therefore been interesting for me to see the changes in the Caribbean since I was last here.

What I’ve found particularly interesting is that my last workplace priced in GBP£ whilst my new one prices in USD$.  This has advantages and disadvantages.  Across most of the English speaking Caribbean local currency is pegged to the USD$.  The exceptions are Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana.  The table below shows the fluctuation in exchange rates over the last ten years (mid point averages have been used).

Countries 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
GYD$:US$ 184.75 189.6 192.55 197.6 201.7 200.6 201.1 203.5 203.8 168.7
JMD$:US$ 43.32 46.08 48.54 58.2 61.4 62.6 65.9 69.1 72.92 88.83
TND$:US$ 6.3 6.23 6.25 6.26 6.3 6.3 6.3 6.33 6.2891 6.32
US$:GBP£ 0.6594 0.7062 0.6524 0.6044 0.5497 0.5582 0.5446 0.498 0.5017 0.5993

The main effect here is the depreciation of the Jamaican Dollar.  Because we’ve been charging in USD$ students in Jamaica who started last year have in effect been hit by a 20% increase in the cost of their course.  If we had been charging in GBP£ it would have just been a 2% rise!

The view from Shirey Heights, Antigua

The view from Shirey Heights, Antigua

In terms of the rest of my trip I haven’t really noticed many indications of changes in economic pressures on the sectors of the population that we’re targeting however tourism seems down, which will have impacts.

One change that I have noticed is that it has been a very different type of trip to the type I would have undertaken with my previous employer.

For example on my previous trips Sundays were premium time.  They were an ideal day to meet students/potential students.  However on this trip it’s more focussed on the business connections so today I only had to meet a contact for dinner and drinks in the evening.  So having read a couple of financial reports I had a bit of a free day.  This meant I managed to get out to Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour in Antigua and have a look around.  It’s the only surviving Georgian dockyard in the Caribbean and is a bit special.

I then managed to get up the nearby hill, Shirley Heights (457m) where I took this photo.  It’s probably a two mile walk each way from the dockyard but it was well worth the walk.

April 14, 2009

From the stocks

Filed under: International Student Recruitment, Ning, photography — Brendan @ 1:18 pm

I’ve mentioned before how my role seems to span a range of different areas.  I’ve also talked about how stock photography is often used by distance learning institutions as it’s easy.  This is the story of how we tried to get away from this and the side effects that this has had.

When considering the advertising approach that we wanted to take for the next few years our agency came up with a concept entitled “This is my London”. It took a very human approach – the idea being that current students would provide a short paragraph about their studies alongside artwork that showed them at their studies in a very non-London environment.

We liked the idea, especially because it was about people, and took it forward but substituted alumni for current students on the basis that this would be more aspirational.


Stupidly in this meeting I said something about UGC and got people (myself included) excited with the potential of producing something that alumni would share in both offline and online worlds.  Inevitably this lead to various discussions about using Flickr and other social media tools to collect photographs and quotes from alumni and maybe running the process as a competition, with the hope that we get the competition and the results shared.  Interestingly this sort of approach has just been tried with YouTube by DePaul.  I’ll be watching with interest to see how they do and how they encourage their entries.

We decided to get a couple of examples mocked up using a few alumni we were in contact with in Hong Kong.  We placed the quote and photo from this ad within a Ning community (with a very limited features set) along with instructions about what we wanted alumni to do.  To date we’ve invited about 7,000 selected alumni (in batches defined by specific criteria) to join – and have had 377 photos uploaded from 278 members.

Whilst most of the photos uploaded aren’t really appropriate for the advertising campaign we’ve had about a dozen that can.  One of these is shown on the right (one of our law alumni who is now a lawyer pictured outside the high court in Malaysia).  We’re getting permission to use the photos and quotes not just within our advertising campaign but also on our website, in our printed materials and elsewhere to help bring the student experience to life.

What’s more it has provided an insight in to alumni’s lives that isn’t available via our alumni databases.

My personal learnings from this have been:
1.    people use tools in ways that you don’t expect
2.    communities (no matter how rudimentary) will spring up and need managing
3.    you can’t assume anything, no matter how well you think you have explained something there are always plenty of barriers to prevent someone completing the task as you intended

February 13, 2009

Reflections on Hong Kong exchange rates

Filed under: International Student Recruitment — Brendan @ 9:38 pm

A street scene in WanchaiSo I’m in Hong Kong this week. I came out for a UK Education Exhibition.

It’s about four or five years since I was last here. I haven’t really noticed any changes yet, the streets are still really busy, people are still going about their business. In fact all I have noticed is that it has got really expensive for me as a tourist. The last time I was here I came back loaded up with all sorts of stuff, a new digital camera, new hard drive for my computer, a few flash memory devices etc.

I went up to the Wanchai Computer Centre this evening to have a quick look around and what struck me immediately was that much of what was for sale was a similar price to back home (about 10% cheaper and probably the model that you’d see next month on TCR). I was specifically looking at net books and UMPCs.

Man in a suit going down the escalator from the park at Central
I guessed that this might be the case as the last time I visited it was 14-15HK$ to the £, whereas I was getting closer to 10-11HK$.  Whilst this is great for business it’s a real pity for the tourist.

However it’s still a great city.

I mean where else do they put escalators to go up and down the hills? Stocksbridge town council (where my parents’ live) could learn from this.

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