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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 17:33 GMT
Student impostor bluffs way to China
Matthew Richardson teaching at Beijing University
The student is to be disciplined over the trip
A 23-year-old student with no knowledge of economics bluffed his way into a trip to China to teach a prestigious course on the subject at Beijing University.

Matthew Richardson, in his fourth year at Oxford University, only gave up after nine hours of lectures, when he ran out of material from pages ripped out of an A-level text book.

Academics at Beijing are said to be furious, and Mr Richardson, originally from Sheffield, may be investigated by the Chinese police, according to the academic who organised the trip, Dr Julian Ng.

Mr Richardson, an engineering student at St Peter's College who was vice-president of the Oxford Union last year, was paid 1,000 and put up in a hotel during the three-day stay.

He said he had expected to be teaching high-school pupils and was surprised to find himself facing students who had flown in from across China.

Students at Matthew Richardson's lecture
Mr Richardson says his students believed he was a real expert
On the second day of his three-day course - fast running out of notes and fearing his interpreter suspected he was faking it - he decided to sneak out during a coffee break.

Mr Richardson told BBC News Online: "I didn't realise the level I would be expected to teach until I got to China, when the penny dropped.

"It was quite an unnerving experience, but I decided the best way forward was to plough deeper into it.

"I was reading from a text book and that finished and I had nothing more to say.

"If I'd had more of the book I'd have got away with it, although the interpreter was starting to get suspicious.

"I thought it would be a great chance to see the world, but all I saw was the view from the plane."

Mr Richardson says he has not heard from Beijing University since, but the master of St. Peter's has referred him to the Dean for punishment, which could include a fine or expulsion.

He said: "I did break a rule of college so it is quite right I get disciplined, but I hope the punishment fits the crime."

Mr Richardson said he was put in touch with Canterbury-based Dr Ng through a mutual friend at an Oxford language school, after a genuine economics expert dropped out because of fears over bird flu.

Dr Ng, who has received a string of angry calls and e-mails from Beijing, said: "I think we were misled and I think he is trying to gain as much mileage out of this as he can."

Professor Bernard Silverman, master of St. Peter's College, said: "Undergraduates are not allowed to be absent in term time without prior permission."

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