Buddhist devotees lighting candles at the full moon festival, Myanmar (Burma).
(Image credit: Juriah Mosin / Shutterstock).

Asia - South East region

The University of Oxford’s links with Southeast Asia date back to 1682, when the directors of the English East India Company first proposed two lecturerships in Malay language and literature. Since that time, many Oxford-educated figures have had an impact in the region. These include King Vajiravudh of Siam, who reigned from 1910–25, and Sir Richard Olof Winstedt, a pioneering scholar of Malayan history and culture who was director of education in British Malaya between 1924 and 1931.

Singapore in particular is one of Oxford’s largest sources of international students. Since the 1960s, the Singapore government has funded more than 300 undergraduates to study at Oxford and many more have come independently or supported by other funding, for both undergraduate and graduate study.

Research, teaching and other activities

The University is in the process of developing an interdisciplinary study centre for Southeast Asia, with the sponsorship of Malaysia’s Sultan Nazrin Shah. The future Southeast Asian Studies Centre will be a part of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA).

Oxford University Press has had a presence in Malaysia since 1957. Oxford Fajar, the Oxford University Press subsidiary in Malaysia, is one of the country’s oldest and largest publishing houses.

Libraries and museums

The Ashmolean Museum has a collection of historic Southeast Asian bronzes, ceramics, terracotta and sculptures that date back as much as 1,000 years.

Notable in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Southeast Asian holdings are its artefacts from Borneo, in particular those collected in Sarawak by the second raja of Sarawak, Sir Charles Brooke. The museum also has musical instruments and shadow puppets from Java, and a collection of over 11,000 photographs from the region, taken in the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th centuries.

The Museum of Natural History holds tens of thousands of specimens collected by the 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, mainly from the Malay Archipelago. Other notable holdings from the region include rocks and dredge samples from the historic HMS Challenger oceanographic expedition of the 1870s.

Highlights of the Bodleian Libraries’ Southeast Asia collections are three of the earliest surviving manuscripts in the Malay language, which date from the first official contacts between the English East India Company and the Malay world during the 17th century. The Bodleian also holds a selection of Buddhist manuscripts from Myanmar and Thailand.

Collaborations with Southeast Asian institutions

This is a selection of Oxford’s collaborative work with organisations in Southeast Asia.

Medical Sciences collaborations

Oxford and the Wellcome Trust's medical research centres in Southeast Asia

Oxford’s Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health operates a longstanding group of overseas centres for tropical medicine research in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust. These facilities are among the largest-scale and most enduring research facilities run by any university overseas.

The largest of the group’s Southeast Asia facilities are the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Thailand, and the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Vietnam. In addition, smaller medical research units also operate in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and Indonesia.

Their past research has informed the World Health Organisation’s advice on first-line treatment for malaria. Current research includes looking at ways of tackling widespread antimalarial and antibiotic drug resistance in the region. Other activities include running clinical trials and investigating the prevalence and impact of poor-quality medicines.

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences collaborations

Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) runs one of the largest wildlife monitoring programmes in Southeast Asia, with camera-trapping sites recording images of wildlife through Nepal, northern Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Malaysian Peninsula, Indonesia’s Sumatra Island and the Malaysian and Indonesian parts of Borneo. Their studies of rare animals, such as the clouded leopard, play a vital role in designing international policies for the protection of endangered species.

Oxford’s Department of Physics and Singapore’s Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) operate the CQT–Oxford Research Fellowship. The fellows are researchers who are seen as potential future leaders in the area of quantum technologies. They are employed at the CQT, and share their time between the CQT and Oxford. The position is intended to enable the fellows to then obtain faculty positions in leading universities or research institutions.

Humanities collaborations

The Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics has documented two languages of Papua, producing online documentation of the Biak language and documentation of the endangered language of Dusner. The documentation was created during two projects lead by members of the faculty between 2009 and 2011. Dusner is considered a highly endangered language with, at the time the project was carried out, only three remaining fluent speakers.

Interdisciplinary collaborations

Oxford and the National University of Singapore (NUS) are both members of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), an alliance of 11 leading research-focused universities. IARU member institutions work together on projects addressing major global issues, to offer development opportunities to their staff and students, and on issues of institutional management.

Scholarships and travel assistance

There are many schemes offering funding for international undergraduate students and particularly funding for international graduate students to study at Oxford, as well as schemes to help students already at Oxford travel abroad.

Student societies

Oxford has official clubs and societies for people interested in, or who have a connection to, many different countries and regions.

Oxford alumni in Southeast Asia

Oxford has a large number of alumni groups around the world.

Notable Southeast Asian alumni

Distinguished Oxford alumni from Southeast Asia include:

  • King Vajiravudh of Siam, reigned 1910–25
  • Abhisit Vejjajiva, prime minister of Thailand, 2008–11
  • Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah of Brunei
  • Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak, Malaysia