TV show apologises to Nottingham University after backlash over joke about Chinese campus

Producers hit by protests from staff and students after drama features joke suggesting college has low academic standards

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 6:09pm

A Chinese television show has apologised to the University of Nottingham’s Chinese campus after teachers and students expressed outrage about dialogue that suggested it offered a poor quality education.

An episode of The Road Will Be White From Tonight, which was broadcast on Wednesday night, featured a character who had studied at the university saying “students at the China branch are struggling with their work” and a joke that implied undergraduates just needed to turn up to get a degree.

Producers on the show apologised for the remarks after a storm of protest.

In a statement posted on Weibo on Thursday they also said that they would delete any content that mentioned the name of the university.

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The drama was adapted from an online young adult novel, and is now showing on Hunan TV, a channel popular among China’s teenagers.

Angry students took to social media to complain, with one Weibo user asking: “Can’t they just use a fictional name? Do they have a problem with Ningbo? Students in our school are hard-working, not goofing around.”

Another wrote: “Why would we spend hundreds of thousands of yuan just to goof around? We can get a degree from much cheaper colleges in China.”

A third said: “I bet you haven’t seen our library at 1am in the morning.”

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The university had given permission for TV crews to film on its campus in Ningbo in Zhejiang province, but said it had not been made aware that the college’s name would be used in the programme.

In an internal email seen by the South China Morning Post, university chiefs said they had not been made aware of the script when they allowed filming on the campus.

The email sent by Chris Rudd, the Ningbo campus provost, said the university was seeking legal advice and would contact the show’s producers.

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The University of Nottingham is a public research university based in the English East Midlands and was included in the QS World University Rankings top 100.

The Ningbo campus, which opened in 2004, is modelled on its English parent, down to the buildings and boating lake.

The university also opened a branch in Semenyih, near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in 2000.

Teaching at both campuses is conducted in English and students are given a full degree from Nottingham University if they successfully complete their studies.

An article about the campus in the Nottingham Evening Post published in late August noted that Chinese students at the Ningbo branch faced a much stricter regime than overseas students. It said the lights in their halls of residence were turned out at midnight, but international students were allowed to stay out later.