Yanlai Deng studied IT at university in mainland China. In 2003 she won a scholarship from the Chinese government to carry out research in the UK under Professor Paul Bacsich at Sheffield Hallam University, but since Paul and many of his core team were moving or had moved to UKeU, it was agreed that Yanlai would come instead to UKeU to work with him. UKeU was very interested in mainland China as a potential market for its courses, as well as being managers of the HEFCE-funded eChina programme and there were particular technical challenges in adapting the UKeU learning environment to cope with Chinese script.
Yanlai arrived in England in late August 2003 and stayed for a 6-month visit, leaving UKeU in February 2004. While in the UK she preferred to be known in English-speaking circles by the name Cathy given to her in language classes by her English teacher back home.
She worked on a number of reports while at UKeU, of which the most comprehensive and relevant to a general audience is the one entitled Network-based distance education in Chinese universities, eventually published to a general audience in 2005.
She also assisted UKeU liaison with a number of incoming high-level Chinese delegations.