AECEF Board Mission to China

by Professor Ralph Francis and Dr.Jiří Váška
AECEF Board member and Secretary-General

A decision was made earlier at an the AECEF Board meeting that the Association should try to broaden its influence by visiting non-European countries where there was presently no representation. Accordingly, members of the Board from Prague (Prof. Jiří Witzany, Prof. Josef Macháček, Dr. Jiří Váška), UK (Prof. B. I. Barr), Odense (Prof. M. Federau), Bucharest (Prof. I. Manoliu), Budapest (Prof. G. Farkas, Prof. A. Lovas), and Canada (Prof. R. M. Francis) made a journey in June/July 2001 to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and the School of Engineering of Tsinghua University of Beijing. Dr. Vaska set the itinerary and provided information about visas, etc. The Board members began their trip in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Professor Chan Siu-lai, who was our guide during our stay at Hong Kong, escorted us from our hotel to the university. There, we met Professor Li Yok-sheung, Dean of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering and a number of professors of Civil Engineering and discussed the activities of the University and Department. These activities are focused on providing high quality application-oriented programmes to train engineers and to advance scientific knowledge and facilitate technology transfer through research and consultancy activities. There are 33 academic staff, 27 technical staff and 10 clerical staff in the Department. The academic staff is organized into 5 academic units, namely structural engineering, environmental engineering, hydraulics, geotechnical engineering and construction & transportation engineering. Following a presentation by President Witzany about the AECEF and its goals, we answered questions about the benefits of membership in the Association. Professor Manoliu as EUCEET Secretary-General gave a presentation on the role of the EUCEET project (European Civil Engineering Education and Training).

Following this meeting the Board members were given a tour of Civil Engineering laboratories. Much of the equipment was new and there was evidence of activity in testing. In the evening, the Board was tendered a true Chinese dinner by Prof.S.Y.Li. Our hosts were most hospitable.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)
Upon arriving at the airport in Shanghai we were met by a University van that took the group to the University Guest hotel. The hotel was well furnished and the meals were different, but good.

We were guests of the School of Civil Engineering and Mechanics and its Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture. Our guide for two days was Professor Lin Shaopei. Profesor Lin was a member of the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture. He spoke excellent English and was a most accommodating guide.

Professor Shen Weiping, Vice President of the University and Professor Hua Liu, Dean of the School of Civil Engineering and Mechanics, received the AECEF delegation.

Visit of the AECEF delegation at the Shaghai Jiao Tong University
(From left – Prof.R.M.Franis, Prof.A.Lovas, Prof.G.Farkas, Prof.I.Manoliu, Prof.J.Witzany,
Prof.Shen Weiping, Vice President of SJTU, Prof.Hua Liu, Dean of School of Civil Engineering & Mechanics,
Prof.M.Federau, Dr.J.Váška, Prof.Lin Shaopei, Prof.B.I.G.Barr, Prof.J.Macháček)

A predecessor of the SJTU was Nanyang Public School founded in the year 1896. The Civil Engineering Department was established at SJTU in 1907. Department is composed of a section of Civil Engineering, Institute of Geotechnical Engineering, and a section of Architecture. The staff of the Department is 5 professors, 15 associate professors, 14 lecturers and 8 other teachers and technicians. At present, there are approximately 500 enrolled students including 430 undergraduates and 48 postgraduate students at the Department. The main research areas of the Department are: reliability and durability of structures, application of information technology to civil engineering, geo-slope stability, application of AI technology to civil engineering, parallel computing for structure analysis, initial rock stress field and its measurement techniques, close range photogrammetry and its applications, management information systems, and GIS techniques for urban planning and design. It was noted that the university has many joint programmes with companies and universities in the US. General Motors was one such company. Students can study in both countries as a part of their degree programme.

The Department proposed a Memorandum of Understanding between the University and the AECEF. This was worked over and in its final form was accepted. The Memorandum is included in this Newsletter.

It is believed that the Memorandum will promote future links among AECEF, its member Universities, and SJTU in teaching and research areas. President Witzany, Secretary-General Vaska, SJTU Vice President Prof.Shen Weiping and the Dean of the School of Civil Engineering and Mechanics Professor Hua Liu signed the Memorandum.

Prof. Liu Hua and Dr.J.Váška signing the Memorandum of Understanding between AECEF and SJTU

Prof.ShenWeiping and Prof.J.Witzany signing the Memorandum of Understanding between AECEF and SJTU

Professor Lin conducted a tour of the civil engineering laboratories of the University. The structures laboratory was located several kilometres from the main campus. The facilities there contained a strong floor and a reaction wall that would allow the testing of almost full-scale structures.

Professor Lin took the AECEF group downtown to visit the various high-rise structures. A view from the 83rd story of the Jin Mao Tower building gave an excellent impression of the size of the city. With an estimated population of about 16,000,000, Shanghai is a huge modern city. The modern architecture could equal that in any modern Western city. A visit to a scale model of the city in the Museum of Shanghai Development gave another bird’s eye view of a vast panorama. It is interesting that the architecture of the building of ”old” China is all of the same style, so that modern architecture is quite noticeable and impressive.

A significant aspect of life in Shanghai was the traffic in streets that were eight to ten lanes wide. Cars and trucks predominated, and one had to wonder at the bicyclists that would ride across eight lines of traffic to cross a street. They must have charmed lives.

Our hosts provided a University van to take the group to the airport for the trip to Beijing.

Tsinghua University – Beijing
At the Beijing airport we were met by the university van and taken to the University Guest Hotel. The hotel was comfortable and the breakfast was excellent.

The campus of the University is huge. It has the appearance of a large park with typically Chinese vistas. In the early morning there were people of all ages doing Tai Chi exercises, or simply sitting silently looking at the gardens and ponds. The university buildings were all modern. Open computer rooms were frequent. The University was established in 1911 and at present has 11 Schools, 900 professors, 1200 associate professors, 20 000 students, from that number 12 000 are in bachelors courses, 6200 in master courses and 2800 PhD students.

The AECEF delegation was received by Professor Yuan Si, Dean of School of Civil Engineering, Prof.Yongjiu Shi, Head of Department of Civil Engineering, Prof.Liu Hongyu, Head of Department of Construction Management, Prof.Jian-Jing Jian, member of China Civil Engineering Society and Profesor Fang Dongping, Director of Construction Safety Centre. The question and answer meeting with Civil Engineering Professors and the Dean followed the same pattern as at the previous universities.

AECEF visit to School of Engineering, Tsinghua University (Beijing)
(In the first road – Prof.Si Yuan, Dean of the School of Engineering, is the third from left,
Prof.J.Witzany, AECEF President, is the fifth from the left).

President Witzany, Secretary General Vaska and Professor Si Yuan, Dean of School of Civil Engineering signed a Memorandum of Understanding between AECEF and Tsinghua. The Memorandum is again aimed at promoting future links among AECEF member Universities and Tsinghua University in teaching and research areas.

A visit to the structures laboratory was impressive. A five-storey model of a concrete frame infilled with concrete blocks was in place following a test. The laboratory had a strong floor and two intersecting reaction walls. The walls allowed the placement of horizontal rams to provide lateral loading in two perpendicular directions. The hydraulic model laboratory was most impressive with a model of the Three Gorges Dam still in place. This laboratory was a forest of flumes.

The day of our visit was graduation day so the campus was filled with proud parents and graduands in caps and gowns. Picture taking was the order of the day.

With this being the end of the visit members taxied to the airport and made their separate ways home.

The overall impressions were that we had excellent hosts; the weather was too warm and humid (which was not the fault of our hosts!), and the hotel facilities were very good. The universities visited seemed equal in quality to those in western countries. Many excellent visits were made to historical sites in or near each city.

The AECEF has opened paths to a new part of the world and it is hoped that these contacts will flourish in the future in teaching and research areas, and the exchange of students and academic staff.

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