Asia - East region | University of Oxford
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Asia - East region

Oxford’s links with East Asia, in particular with China, Japan and Korea, are among its most important, and rank among the most extensive of any university in the West.

Studying

The sub-faculty of East Asian Studies in the faculty of Oriental Studies offers courses in Chinese studies, Korean studies, and Japanese studies. In addition, it offers a graduate degree that spans the region: the MPhil in Traditional East Asia, which offers a comparative overview of East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) from antiquity to the nineteenth century.

The Asian Studies Centre at St Antony's College provides a collaborative home for all Oxford's academics and researchers working on Asia, and hosts a range of seminar series, workshops, conferences and lectures. The Centre runs regular seminar series that are interdisciplinary and comparative in their approach to the study of East Asia. The seminars cover themes and issue of historical and contemporary relevance in the East Asia region.

Wider study of the region is focused in a number of multi-disciplinary academic centres, including the Oxford University China Centre and the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies.

Research

The Climate Change and Ageing Population project within the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing explores conflicts and convergences between climate change and the ageing population in the UK and Japan. According to the UN, half the global population resident in cities will be over the age of 60 by the year 2050, and many of the conveniences that address age-related changes (automobiles, elevators, air-conditioning) are also highly dependent on energy. By linking together these two drivers, this project aims to develop flexible responses to the combined challenges of climate and demographic change.

Professor David Coleman, Emeritus Professor of Demography at the Oxford Centre for Population Research, has been studying Korean demographics and has issued advice on the impending demographic shift of swiftly contracting birth rates alongside an ageing population. Researchers at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing have also produced comparative studies on the impact of Korea’s ageing population.

Researchers in both the International Migration Institute and the Refugee Studies Centre work on analyses of migration dynamics in Korea, including labour migration and refugee flows.

Professor Stein Ringen, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, has co-authored a book entitled ‘The Korean State and Social Policy: How South Korea Lifted Itself from Poverty and Dictatorship to Affluence and Democracy’. His co-authors included Taekyoon Kim, Professor of Public Policy at Ewha Womans University; Huck-Ju Kwon, Professor at the Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University; and Jooha Lee,  Professor of Public Administration at Dongguk University.

Dr James Lewis, University Lecturer in Korean History, works on Korean and Japanese history from ca.1600 to 1850 and has published extensively on relations between the two countries, focusing on trade and diplomacy.

The University's Lecturer in Korean Language and Linguistics, Dr Jieun Kaier, focuses on Korean linguistics - most recently syntactic motivations – and is also actively engaged in developing textbooks for Korean language and linguistics.

Libraries and Museums

The Bodleian holds an extensive range of rare and ancient Korean resources in its collections. These include two titles which are included on the ‘100 Hangul Heritage’ list, in addition to rare antiquarian printed books, manuscripts, imperial publications, fine portrait albums, and a painted scroll of the funeral procession of King Yŏngjo. It also houses one of the oldest and largest collections of Chinese material in Europe. The Bodleian Japanese Library was opened to readers in April 1993 in the newly constructed building of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies. The Library houses the University's principal collections in the humanities and social sciences which relate to the history and culture of Japan. It combines the Bodleian’s extensive holdings on Japan with the residual collection of the former Nissan Institute Library. The Library, comprising about 120,000 volumes, offers one of the best research collections for Japanese studies in Europe.

There has been Japanese material in the Ashmolean's collections from the earliest stages of the Museum's history. A pair of Japanese zori, described in an early inventory as ‘sandals made of twigs', was part of the original Tradescant collection; the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum given to the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole. Highlights of the Japanese collection include woodblock prints, Buddhist sculpture, sword furniture, netsuke and inrō, and lacquerware for both export and domestic markets. It also has one of the finest collections of Chinese art in Europe. Visitors can see bronze dating from predynastic China and the Shang Dynasty (1200-1050BC); porcelain of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties; and the greatest collection of modern and contemporary Chinese art in the west.

The Pitt Rivers Museum's Japan collection includes Noh Masks, Netsuke, arms and armour and everyday objects. It also holds 7,000 objects and 4,000 photographs from China, as well as decorative arts, ceramics, textiles, and extensive collections of everyday objects and archaeological materials.

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

The Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) will be the University's first overseas centre for physical science and engineering research. Primarily expanding on activities from across the University's Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, it will offer scientists the opportunity to undertake research in applied science fields in proximity to Chinese industry and science and technology institutes. Based in the Souzhou Industrial Park, researchers will have access to state-of-the-art facilities in a research environment enriched by numerous universities and research institutions, and a substantial industrial base. Research will be directed by University of Oxford academic staff, with most of the research to be undertaken by researchers employed locally by OSCAR.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and its 8.3 metre Subaru Telescope, located in Hawaii, are an important international resource. In 2008, a fibre multi-object spectrograph (FMOS) was installed on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii to assist the study of galaxy evolution, dark energy, and early cosmic expansion. Oxford’s astronomical instrumentation group played a leading role in the international collaboration that designed and made this important instrument.

Oxford also has collaborations with Japanese scientists working in particle physics. Oxford physicists are creating laserwires for the Accelerator Test Facility at KEK (Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation), and for the proposed International Linear Collider.

Oxford collaborates with the Institute of Statistical Mathematics to strengthen their relationship in the fields of data assimilation and statistical machine learning, through maintaining collaborative contact, facilitating staff and student exchange, and establishing and promoting a Network of Evidence (NOE) in the shared research field.

In 2013, Oxford signed a memorandum with The Korea Energy Industry Technology Council to collaborate on the development of technology in areas such as wind, solar, marine and bio energy, fuel cells, carbon capture and storage, and energy policy. In 2014 the University signed a similar agreement with Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, to collaborate in a range of high-tech fields.

In May 2012, the Department of Engineering Science hosted a special visit by Dr Chang-Gyu Hwang, the National Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Head of the Office of Strategic R&D Planning in the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Dr Hwang was previously President and CEO of Samsung Electronics. Dr Hwang’s visit to Oxford marked the start of a series of technology collaborations with the University, facilitated by Visiting Professor Jong Min Kim, former Senior Vice-President of Samsung Electronics. The Department of Engineering Science is also undertaking joint research in gas turbine engineering with Pusan National University.

The University has also signed agreements with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) to allow for student and staff exchange and other forms of collaboration.

An international team of researchers including scientists from Oxford University and Korea University, as well as others, have discovered a new way of splitting layered materials, similar to graphite, into sheets of material just one atom thick. These 'nanosheets' can be made from a range of materials using mild ultrasonic pulses via a new method that is simple, fast, and inexpensive, and could be scaled up to work on an industrial scale. This could lead to revolutionary new electronic and energy storage technologies.

Oxford astrophysicists have worked in collaboration with Yonsei University in Seoul and the department hosts a number of their graduate students. A joint Oxford-Korea research team won the Royal Astronomical Society 'Group Achievement Award for Astrophysics" in 2013.

Social Sciences

The Outward Direct Investment from China project, carried out in partnership with Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, has attracted increasing attention in recent years. This project attempts to analyse the impact of Chinese Overseas Foreign Direct Investment on the competitiveness and innovativeness of the investing firm, the employment and growth in the home region and host countries using both a cross country panel data set and a firm level survey in Guangdong Province.

The Role of Internationalisation on Technological Capability-Upgrading in Developing Countriesproject explores how enterprises’ internationalisation influences technological capacities in developing countries. The project team seeks to investigate this through an empirical analysis of Chinese firms entering Europe, where technical infrastructure is usually more advanced, and in Africa, where such infrastructure is usually less developed. The grant was awarded to Professor Xiaolan Fu (University of Oxford) as Principal Investigator, and includes Dr Jizhen Li and Dr Zhongjuan Sun (Tsinghua University) as Co-Investigators.

In May 2014 legendary business leader Dr Kazuo Inamori gave his first lecture in Europe, at the Sheldonian Theatre, entitled "Rebuilding Japan Airlines, the Inamori Way". Dr Inamori told a packed audience how he took on the monumental task of turning around Japan Airlines, Japan’s national carrier which had just gone bankrupt. Within three years the airline was successfully re-listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and became the most profitable airline in the world.

In May 2017, the inaugural Kyoto Prize at Oxford, founded by Dr Inamori, was held in the Blavatnik School of Government. The Blavatnik School's Inamori Forum space is named in his honour. Dr Inamori also delivered a lecture entitled “From a society of greed to a society of altruism”. The Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten of Barnes, welcomed him to the prestigious Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors, a formal recognition of his generosity to the University.

Medical Sciences

Since 2004, Oxford’s Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) has collaborated with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) on the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB), a globally unique study investigating the causes of major chronic diseases. It is a study of massive proportions, with over 510,000 participants in 10 regions of China being studied by 160 project staff members.

The CAMS-Oxford International Centre for Translational Immunology (CTI) is a joint venture between the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS), China Centre for Disease Control (China CDC), Beijing's You'an Hospital (You'an), the University of Oxford's Human Immunology Unit (HIU), and the Nuffield Department of Medicine (NDM). Founded in April 2013 to study hepatitis B and liver disease, its remit has since widened to include HIV, influenza and many other infectious diseases.

The Glycobiology Institute has joined forces with the Scripps-Korea Antibody Institute (SKAI) to develop therapeutic antibodies to help fight cancer. The research will focus on generating antibodies to tackle carbohydrate structures found on cancer cells but not on healthy cells. The aim is to improve the antibodies’ natural ability to kill cancerous cells.

Professor Anthony Watts in the Department of Biochemistry has collaborated over a decade with scientists at Hannam University and at KRIBB, where he has also acted as international adviser. Professor Watts also held the post of Distinguished Professor at Kyun-Won University, Seoul, Korea in 2004.

Oxford University has formal partnership and collaboration agreements with a number of key academic institutions in Japan, including Kobe UniversityOsaka University and Nara Medical University.

Humanities

From 2011-2016, researchers in Oxford University’s School of Archaeology undertook a major archaeological research project in collaboration with researchers from the University of Science and Technology in Beijing. The project, China and Inner Asia (1,000-200 BC): Interactions that changed China, was supported by a major research grant from the Leverhulme Trust, and examined how early Chinese societies made use of different foreign materials and technologies, such as iron and bronze working. The work continues over the next few years in conjunction with the Flame project in the Research Laboratory for Art History and Archaeology, University of Oxford, investigating the circulation of bronze across Eastern Siberia and China.

Oxford has links with the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, working together on Japanese linguistics, including collaborative research and staff/student exchange. All of our undergraduates studying Japanese spend the second year of their four-year undergraduate degree at Kobe University in Japan for extensive language study, combined with the study of civilization, culture and history.

Globalization and its discontents are of prime concern in the world today, yet few grasp that its key ideas have a deep history, which should resonate in the present. The Global Nodes, Global Orders: Macro and Micro histories of Globalization project attempts to historicize and re-conceptualise globalization, bring the key disciplines together, and better understand its intimate mechanics and implications for the present. Led by James Belich in Oxford, it brings together leading scholars from Oxford, Princeton, Osaka, Kolkata, Leiden and Konstanz.

Interdisciplinary

In April 2011 Oxford University launched a collaborative centre based at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the Collaborating Centre of Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC). While Asia is ranked as the most disaster prone region of the world in both natural and man-made disasters, research and training in the Asia-Pacific region is limited. The objective of CCOUC is to focus on academic, research and training on disaster preparedness, relief and response in the Greater China region; better understanding of the profile of disaster epidemiology and the human health impact will enhance response, preparedness and mitigate the adverse human impact resulted of disaster. Based on the technical expertise and network of Oxford Asia, University of Oxford, CCOUC will support research, training, and academic exchange in the area of disaster and humanitarian medicine.

The Earthquakes without Frontiers partnership brings together earth scientists, social scientists and practitioners in the communication of scientific knowledge to policy makers, including from the Departments of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, the Department of Applied Social Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Institute of Geology, China Earthquake Administration. Focused on China, Iran and Central Asia, and the Himalayan mountain front, the researchers work closely with local scientists, policy-makers and organisations, both government and non-governmental to achieve its core aims: to provide increases in knowledge of distribution of earthquake hazards in the continental interiors; to identify pathways to increased resliance in the populations exposed to these hazards; and to secure long terms gains by establishing a well-networked, interdisciplinary partnership.

These represent just a small sample of the myriad of collaborations between Oxford University and China. Details of further collaborations can be viewed in our Oxford-China brochure, available to download on the right hand side of this page. The University has formal partnership and collaboration agreements with some of China’s top universities and research institutions including Chinese University of Hong Kong, Tsinghua University, Peking University and Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials (BIAM). Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education has also trained more than 10,000 Chinese government and university officials through its leadership programmes.

Along with eight other research-intensive universities, Oxford, the University of Tokyo and Peking University are members of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). Together, they are tackling major research projects, offering a Global Summer Programme to one another’s students, and taking action on critical university issues such as campus sustainability.

Members of the Nissan Institute have joined colleagues at the Saïd Business School in Oxford, EHESS Paris, Freie Universität Berlin, and Waseda University Tokyo to create an advanced research and training network. Entitled Understanding institutional change in Asia: A comparative perspective with Europe (INCAS), the network is funded under the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions Rise Program, and runs from 2015-19. They will bring their particular focus on liberalization and financialization from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Japan is of particular interest given significant changes in corporate governance and its regulation over the past couple of years, in part designed to dismantle some of the distinctive features of the post-war high growth era, and relatedly, changing political balances in policy making. These changes will be explored comparatively, both with other Asian countries, and with European countries. The goal of INCAS is to create and transfer knowledge on comparative institutional change within the network and beyond it.

Oxford is highly fortunate to have had the support of a number of leading Japanese organisations in setting up some of its cutting edge research centres. Nissan supported the creation of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies; Nomura, a large Japanese multinational organisation, support the Nomura Centre for Mathematical Finance which was established in 2001; and the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education in Tokyo supports the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics set up in 2002 in the Department of Philosophy.

Students

There are over 1,400 students from East Asia studying at Oxford. Over a third are undergraduates, while nearly two thirds are postgraduates (with slightly more of these being postgraduate research students). Nearly half are studying subjects in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences division, and over a quarter are in the Social Sciences. The majority are from China (including Hong Kong and Macao), but also come from Mongolia, Japan, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea.

Scholarships

Various scholarships are available to Chinese students, including: the Great Britain–China Educational Trust which offers awards of up to £3,000 for Chinese students studying in the UK who have started the third year of their DPhil, the Kwok Scholarships for exceptional students from Hong Kong ;and/or mainland China who intend to return to Hong Kong or China on completion of their studies to develop a career in public service for the benefit of the Hong Kong community and/or betterment of China; and the Nuffield CSC Scholarships.

There are several scholarships available specifically to Japenese students or those studying Japanese. The Daiwa Anglo–Japanese Foundation awards grants to individuals, institutions and organisations to promote links between the UK and Japan. The Kobe Scholarships offer two full scholarships are available for nationals of Japan who are applying to start any full or part-time master’s or DPhil course at Oxford. The scholarships are funded by a donation to St Catherine’s College, and one of the scholarships is tenable only at St Catherine’s College. The Nissan Institute offers two partial scholarships for the MSc/MPhil in Japanese Studies; one is for Home/EU students worth £10K and one for overseas students worth £20k. The Scott Family Scholarship, offered by St Anthony's, is for students of a one-year (MSc) or two-year (MPhil) degree in Modern Japanese Studies and is worth £9,000.  The Aso Group Scholarship is for students with Japanese as a first language; preference is for students from Fukuoka Prefecture. The Daiwa Scholarships in Japanese Studies are for postgraduate Japanese Studies in either Japan or the UK. The Stockwin Scholarship in Japanese Studies is available to students who wish to carry on to the 2nd year of the MPhil in Modern Japanese Studies. Sasakawa studentships (each worth £10,000) are available for postgraduate students in Japanese studies. The studentships are open to students of any nationality, but applications from UK nationals are particularly encouraged. ESRC studentships in Japanese Studies are available on the Area Studies Pathway.

Societies

The Oxford University Chinese Society and the Oxford University Hong Kong Society (OUHKS) provide opportunities for those linked to China via heritage, research or just interest to meet, socialise and network. For students interested in engaging with China in its regional context, the Oxford Majlis Asian Society is the oldest Asian student society in the world and the second oldest student society at the University. It brings together students from all over Asia, the Middle East, Iran and Central Asia, or China and the Far East.

The Oxford University Japanese Society (OUJS) is a student run society which aims to introduce and promote the enjoyment of Japanese culture and provide an interface between Japanese students in Oxford and those with an interest in Japan. The society runs social and cultural events relating to Japan, in addition to providing Japanese language classes for its members.

For Korean students at Oxford looking for support networks, the student-led Oxford University Korea Society provides a focal point for social and cultural activities. The Society was founded in 1986 by a number of enthusiastic and pioneering students seeking to encourage lively interactions among the Korean population in Oxford and to promote Korea as a nation of both transition and tradition worldwide. Since then, the Society has expanded its membership with an ever-increasing number of students, visiting professors and researchers alike, and has firmly established itself as a representative body of Korean residents in Oxford.

Academics

There are more than 300 academics from East Asia at Oxford. Over three-quarters are from China (including Hong Kong and Macao). The remainder are from Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Mongolia.

Professor Xiaolan Fu (China)

Xiaolan Fu is Director of the Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD), Professor of Technology and International Development and Fellow of Green College at Oxford University. She was President of the Chinese Economic Association (Europe) and CEA (UK) (2010-2011). In 2015 and 2016 she was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Ten-Member High Level Advisory Group of the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism and to the Governing Council of the UN’s Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries. Her recent books include China’s Path to Innovation, China’s Role in Global Economic Recovery, and The Rise of Technological Power in the South. Her papers appeared widely in leading international journals. She received the European Commission Gate2Growth Academic Network 2005 ‘European Best Paper’ Award. She currently leads an ESRC/DFID funded project on The Diffusion of Innovation in Low Income Countries, an EC FP7 funded project on MNEs and Development, and a British Academy funded project on Internationalisation of emerging market MNEs, knowledge sourcing and capability upgrading. She is also a Senior Research Associate of the University of Cambridge and a Visiting Professor at Fudan University.

Professor Biao Xiang (China)

Biao Xiang is a Professor of Social Anthropology and Fellow of St Hugh's College. He has worked on various types of migration—internal and international, unskilled and highly-skilled, emigration, left behind and return—in China, India and Australia. Instead of taking migration as a distinct phenomenon to be explained, he sees migration as a particular means of social change that reveals larger forces at work. Through the lens of migration, he has examined the changing Chinese state, labour relations in the high-tech sector in India, and other political economy issues in Asia. Currently, Xiang is working on two projects: transnational labour recruitment intermediaries, and Muslim migrants to and in China.

He is the author of The Intermediary Trap (Princeton University Press, forthcoming); Global “Body Shopping” (Princeton University Press, 2007; winner of 2008 Anthony Leeds Prize; Chinese by Peking University Press 2012), Transcending Boundaries(Chinese by Sanlian Press, 2000; English by Brill Academic Publishers, 2005; to be reprinted as a “Classics in Chinese Sociology” in 2018) and numerous articles in both English and Chinese, including the one awarded the 2012 William L. Holland Prize for outstanding article in Pacific Affairs. Xiang’s latest Chinese articles “the End of the Educated Youth era” (2016) and “Understanding Hong Kong: Democracy and Party Politics in Popular Movements” (2015), alongside a number of interviews, have triggered wide debates in China and beyond.

Alumni

There are around 7,000 Oxford alumni in East Asia. Nearly three-quarters are from China (including Hong Kong and Macao). The rest are spread across Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Mongolia. There are five alumni groups in mainland China, two in Japan and one in each of Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Famous alumni from the region include:

  • Professor Akira Ariyoshi, Hitotsubashi University
  • Dr Myungju Choi, former CEO of GK Partners, former President of the Oxford Alumni Association, and member of the Presidential Commission on Policy Planning, he is concurrently CEO and President of Kyobo Securities and CEO and President of POSTECH Venture Capital Corporation.
  • George F Gao, Professor and Director-General, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Professor Harumi Goto-Shibata, Professor of International History, Tokyo University
  • Dr Yuki Allyson Honjo, Senior Vice-President, Fox-Pitt
  • Akifumi Ikeda, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Toyo Eiwa University
  • Hiroharu Koike, Japanese Ambassador to the Netherlands
  • Haruhiko Kuroda, President, Asian Development Bank
  • Dr Kyong-Soo Lho, Professor of Politics and former Dean of the Office of International Affairs, Seoul National University.
  • Dr Ok-Pyo Moon, Professor of Anthropology and former Dean of the Graduate School, Academy of Korean Studies.
  • Dr Takashi Omori, APEC Economic Committee Chair and Policy Advisor to the Japanese Cabinet Office
  • Dr Jin Park, President of the Korea-UK Forum for the Future and former Member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea for the Grand National Party.
  • Peng Sen, Vice-Minister, National Development and Reform Commission
  • Dr T.Y. Seong, Professor of Nanophotonics, Korea University, and Director of the Optoelectronics Materials and Device Laboratory at Korea University
  • Guo Shuqing, Chairman of the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission
  • Dr Hak-Gyu Son, former governor of Gyeonggi-do, former member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, and Presidential candidate in 2012.
  • Miyuki Suzuki, CEO, Jetstar Japan
  • Zhang Weiying, Professor and Dean of Guanghua School of Management, Peking University
  • Yang Xianyi, literary scholar
  • Yu Yongding, President of China Society of World Economics. 
  • Qian Zhongshu, literary scholar
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