Construction starts today on a building for a centre bringing together Oxford University's research on China.
Based at St Hugh's College, the building also incorporates new college facilities.
The University of Oxford China Centre is made up of more than 40 academics drawn from a diverse range of disciplines, with common research and teaching interests related to China.
Until now, the China Centre academics have been spread out across the University, without a physical home. The new building, based in St Hugh's College, will bring this group together for the first time and provide state-of-the-art new facilities to support their work. It will also increase opportunities for exchange with academics and scholars from Chinese universities and China experts from across the globe.
As well as housing the China Centre, the new building will provide St Hugh's College with 63 en-suite student bedrooms and additional teaching and conference space. Such a large-scale collaboration between the central University and a college on a building project has not previously occurred.
The building, expected to be complete in 2014, will have a floor space of 5,491 square metres (excluding the Chinese central courtyard and garden) over five floors. It will feature the new University of Oxford China Centre Library, which will house 60,000 volumes and a large part of the Bodleian's Chinese book collection; a 100-person lecture theatre; a dining room capable of seating 200; reference rooms and study areas; a state-of-the-art language laboratory; and a green, ecologically efficient roof terrace, offering views over the spires of Oxford.
The project is possible thanks to the support of friends and alumni. In 2008, following the official launch of the China Centre by Lord Patten, Chancellor of the University, St Hugh's College launched a fundraising campaign for the building. The campaign has been the most successful in the college’s history, and has raised just under £15 million to date, including a gift of £10 million from Hong-Kong based philanthropist Dickson Poon CBE, after whom the building has been named. Opportunities to support the campaign and name parts of the building are still open to potential donors.
The Chancellor of Oxford University, the Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, said: 'I am delighted that work is now going ahead for our China Centre, and hugely grateful to our benefactor, Dickson Poon, for making this possible.'
Andrew Dilnot, Former Principal of St Hugh's and Chair of the China Centre Fundraising Committee, said: 'The study of China in all its aspects, from ancient to modern, literary and artistic to scientific and environmental, political and economic to philosophical, is hugely exciting and very important not just for this university, but for the whole world. The creation of this new centre for study, bringing together research space, teaching space, and space for the display of Chinese artefacts is a matter for great celebration.'
Dame Elish Angiolini, newly appointed Principal of St Hugh's, said: 'This historic and spectacular development is particularly thrilling for me as new Principal. The Centre will enrich the academic community in Oxford and provide wonderful new facilities for the students, Fellows and wider community at St Hugh's.'
Andrew Goudie, Director of the China Centre, said: 'The construction of the new China Centre will cause huge excitement amongst those in Oxford who are interested in China, but it also demonstrates in a very tangible way the value of collaboration between a college and the University.'