China | University of Oxford
A panoramic view of the Shanghai skyline.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).


Oxford University's engagement with China began in the 17th century, when the Bodleian library acquired its first Chinese manuscript (1604) and the University welcomed its first Chinese visitor (1684). We established our first professorship of Chinese in 1875, and introduced a BA in Chinese in 1939.

In 1994, Oxford University founded the Institute of Chinese Studies and in 2007 it opened the Oxford China Office in Hong Kong to focus on Oxford’s relations with China. In 2008, the University launched the University of Oxford China Centre, the largest centre of its kind outside of North America. Work began in October 2012 on the Dickson Poon China Centre Building at St Hugh’s College, a new and dedicated building for China-related study.

Oxford University Press in China was first established in the early 20th century, but was re-established in 1961 in Hong Kong after the two World Wars. It now operates in four other offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Macao and serves millions of English language learners and readers in the country.


Chinese Premier’s wife visits Oxford

19 June 2014

Professor Cheng HongProfessor Cheng Hong, wife of China’s Premier Li Keqiang, at Worcester College.

Professor Cheng Hong, wife of China’s Premier Li Keqiang and a professor of English literature, visited the University yesterday to discuss literature with leading Oxford academics and make a major donation of books to the Bodleian Library.

Professor Cheng was in the UK with her husband, who was paying an official visit to the country. Arriving in Oxford after visiting the British Museum, she met with the Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Rawlins and Worcester College Provost Professor Jonathan Bate for tea at Worcester College, before joining academics and doctoral students for a seminar on nature literature.

An expert on nature literature, Professor Cheng is noted for her translations of American texts, as well as her own books. The special seminar, led by Professor Bate, saw a vibrant discussion of the contrast between American and British nature writing, as well as the work of classical Chinese poet Wang Wei.

More than 1000 books donated

Professor Cheng’s visit also included a tour of the Bodleian Library and the donation of 1039 volumes of Chinese books. This major donation included 11 series of rare Chinese research material, including a 42-volume set of reproductions of folk culture scrolls that is believed to be only the second set in the country. The books will bolster Oxford’s substantial Chinese holdings and many of them will be shelved at the University’s new China Centre

Oxford renews scholarship agreement

Professor Cheng’s visit followed the renewal of Oxford’s agreement with the China Scholarships Council, which was signed at the Foreign Office on Tuesday. The agreement provides funding for up to 20 excellent Chinese students to begin DPhil degrees every year.

Oxford is one of the leading centres for the study of China in Europe and the world, with over 70 academics across disciplines specialising in this area. The role of the University’s China Centre is to ensure strong connections between academics in these different departments. Since its launch, the Centre has hosted academic visitors and dynamic seminars and has become an important information source about China-related academic activities in Oxford. The new Dickson Poon China Centre building underpins the University’s commitment to the study of China and will ensure that the University's relationships with both China and with other centres of scholarship in Chinese Studies worldwide continue to develop and expand.

Dickson Poon BuildingDickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building.

In the past two decades, the University has steadily been expanding and bringing together its China-focused research.  In 1994, Oxford founded the Institute for Chinese Studies, a cross-disciplinary centre for the study of China which organises lectures and classes for the MSt course in Chinese Studies. The Institute is part of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, and it is the centre for all teaching programmes at Oxford on China – for instance, the Centre for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language is developing new multimedia language-teaching materials in modern Chinese.

In 2008, the University launched the University of Oxford China Centre, which joins together academics from across the whole University, co-ordinating activities in all areas of study of China. It is the largest centre of its kind outside of North America. Work began in October 2012 on the Dickson Poon China Centre Building at St Hugh’s College, a new and dedicated building which will feature a floor space of 5491 square metres over five floors, the new University of Oxford China Centre Library, a 100 person lecture theatre, a dining room seating 200, reference rooms and study areas, a state-of-the-art language laboratory and a green, ecologically efficient, roof terrace area, which will provide inspiring views over the dreaming spires of Oxford for visitors to enjoy.

The University has also created a significant and varied physical presence in China. Oxford University Press in China was first established in the early 20th century, but was re-established in 1961 in Hong Kong after the two World Wars. It now operates in four other offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Macao and serves millions of English language learners and readers in the country. In 2007 the University opened the Oxford China Office in Hong Kong, focused on alumni and external relations and development activities in China and across the region. And in 2012, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, officially opened a new office in central Beijing to support the University’s extensive medical research in China, focused initially on clinical trials in diabetes. The office houses the Oxford University Beijing Science and Technology Company Ltd. 

Study options

Students can study various degree courses focused on China.

  • The main undergraduate degree focused on China at Oxford is the BA in Oriental Studies (Chinese).

  • Students can study for an MSt in Chinese Studies, focusing on language, history, art and literature, within the Faculty of Oriental Studies.
  • In 2008 Oxford launched a one-year graduate MSc in Modern Chinese Studies which aims to both broaden and deepen students’ understanding of modern China, and develop their appreciation of the various research methods now used in Chinese Studies.

  • The MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies is a two-year masters degree designed to enable graduates in modern history or the social sciences to acquire advanced knowledge of the Chinese language and the society, politics, economics, and history of modern China.

  • Doctoral students focused on China are typically reading for a DPhil in Oriental Studies or in another discipline.

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Libraries and Museums

Chinese horseA porcelain Chinese horse.

The Bodleian Library houses one of the oldest and largest collections of Chinese material in Europe, while the Ashmolean Museum 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.

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   Oxford’s Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) are collaborating with Chinese partners 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 the health of 100,000 people in over 10 locations being studied by 160 project staff members.

   Genetic Variants and Depression: Professor Jonathan Flint of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and Dr Yiping Chen of CTSU are collaborating with Professor Shenxun Shi of Fudan University and Professor Kenneth Kendler of Virginia Commonwealth University on a five-year study to identify the genetic variant linked to depression, by working with 12,000 women from 53 hospitals across China. Professors Flint and Kendler have also started a study of schizophrenia and are planning a study of alcoholism.

   In April 2011 Oxford University launched a new 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. 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 Li Ka Shing Global Health Programme at Oxford was founded in 2007 following a generous donation by the Li Ka Shing Foundation. The Global Health Programme funds a series of partnerships, teaching and research projects which develop the best responses to the current challenges facing global health. The Shantou Oxford Clinical Research Unit (SOCRU) at Shantou University Medical College was established in May 2010, with the aim of  bringing together skills, expertise and ideas through global health research projects in. SOCRU also provides collaborative training courses to future scientists.

   The ACE Trial, headed by Professor Rury Holman,is a double-blind randomised and multi-centre study into cardiovascular intervention. Led by Oxford University, the People's Hospital at Peking University and the Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing, the ACE works with more than 150 hospitals throughout China to determine whether reducing post-prandial glycaemia with acarbose can reduce cardiovascular-related morbidity and mortality in patients with established cardiovascular disease and impaired glucose tolerance.

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Chinese economy and governance

   Technology transfer and innovation: Dr Xiaolan Fu, Director of the Programme for Technology and Management for Development at Oxford, is collaborating with scholars at Tsinghua University to study patterns of technology transfer and industrial innovation. The collaboration brings Tsinghua students to study at Oxford, organises an annual conference on innovation and entrepreneurship, and produces joint papers, including one forthcoming in the Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Chinese history and culture

   The Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture. Researchers in Oxford University’s School of Archaeology are undertaking 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’, is supported by a major research grant from the Leverhulme Trust, and will examine how early Chinese societies made use of different foreign materials and technologies, such as iron and bronze working.

   The British Inter-University China Centre (BICC) is a joint venture between Oxford, Bristol, and Manchester Universities. Funded  through the Language Based Area Studies Scheme by the AHRC, BICC organizes a series of research networks and placements, as well as a language training programme.

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 3,000 Chinese government and university officials through its leadership programmes.

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In the mid-1990s, fewer than 100 students from China (including Hong Kong and Macao) studied at Oxford. By 2011, this number was over 800. China, Hong Kong and Macao jointly make up the second largest source of international students at Oxford.

The majority of Oxford’s Chinese students are studying for degrees in mathematics, science or social science. A number of Chinese students hold prestigious Oxford scholarships, such as the Clarendon Scholarship, now open to all postgraduate students and funded by Oxford University Press. They also benefit from scholarships created specifically for Chinese students by the China Oxford Scholarship Fund, the KC Wong Education Foundation, and the Chinese Ministry of Education together with the University of Oxford. There are a range of student societies and support groups available to Chinese students at Oxford. 

The Oxford University Chinese Society, the Oxford Chinese Affairs 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 Chinese Students and Scholars Society (OXCSSA) holds regular social events, lectures and seminars, and recently published 'Oxford people, Oxford words: Chinese Scholars' Lectures in Oxford'.


There are nearly 140 Chinese academics at Oxford, one of the largest contingents from any country. They include lecturers, professors and full-time researchers.

Professor Zhou Xunyu
Professor Zhou Xunyu is the Nomura Chair of Mathematical Finance and Director of the Nomura Centre for Mathematical Finance at Oxford, which promotes research in mathematics and finance, with a special emphasis on approaches that combine practical relevance with mathematical interest. He has recently engaged in mathematical-behavioural finance research. He is also on the editorial board of a number of prestigious journals in mathematical finance.

Professor Zhou studied for his BSc in Mathematics and his PhD in Applied Mathematics at Fudan University, China.

Professor Lu Xin
Professor Lu is the director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Oxford, the largest international academic institute dedicated to understanding and controlling cancer. Dr Lu's research is focused on understanding the body's mechanisms of tumour suppression at the molecular level.

Professor Lu was born in Guiyang, Guizhou province and studied for a BSc in Biochemistry at Sichuan University. She subsequently obtained her MSc degree from the Cancer Institute of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical School in Beijing before obtaining her PhD at the Clare Hall laboratories of the former Imperial Cancer Research Fund, UCL and London University in the UK.


The University has more than 2800 alumni in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao – the sixth largest concentration in the world.

Prominent alumni, past and present, include:

  • Qian Zhongshu, literary scholar
  • Yang Xianyi, literary scholar
  • Guo Shuqing, Chairman of the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission
  • George F Gao, Professor and Director-General, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Zhang Weiying, Professor and Dean of Guanghua School of Management, Peking University
  • Peng Sen, Vice-Minister, National Development and Reform Commission
  • Yu Yongding, President of China Society of World Economics. 

Oxford has active alumni groups in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong.

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