For more than 400 years Oxford has engaged with China. Today the University remains one of Europe’s most important centres for the study of China, and a hub of collaboration with Chinese institutions.
Oxford houses Europe’s largest centre dedicated to the study of China. The University of Oxford China Centre, which moved to the custom-built Dickson Poon China Centre Building in 2014, employs around 50 academics dedicated to the study of the history and culture of China. The Centre building is located within the gardens of St Hugh’s College.
Oxford is also a leading scientific and medical collaborator with contemporary China, investing in collaborative centres in Mainland China, Hong Kong and the UK.
Chinese talent plays an important role in Oxford’s ongoing success, with the University now educating almost 1,500 Chinese students and employing more than 240 Chinese members of staff.
Centuries of study
Oxford'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.
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.
News - Oxford University and Suzhou Industrial Park sign agreement for new research centre
Oxford University and Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in China's Jiangsu Province have signed an agreement to jointly establish the Oxford-Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR).
OSCAR – a multidisciplinary research, innovation and technology centre – will focus on research challenges and technologies that both complement the centre's location in SIP and capitalise on current Oxford research strengths, producing knowledge and innovation with the aim of developing the commercial potential of such technologies.
Research will initially be focused around the areas of biomedical engineering, biomedicine, advanced functional materials, environmental technology and energy, financial mathematics, computer science, and health. In the future, cooperation in other areas may be explored.
Professor Donal Bradley, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division at Oxford, signed the agreement on behalf of the University. He said: 'This is a wonderful moment for Oxford science and engineering as we embark on the creation of our first overseas research centre. We very much look forward to working closely with the Suzhou Industrial Park and our academic and industrial collaborators in Jiangsu province and elsewhere in China to progress a range of exciting societal and economic development opportunities.
'Our ambition is that OSCAR will become a paradigm of scientific excellence focused on global challenges – an ambition that will be greatly assisted by our location in Suzhou.'
Oxford and SIP began a series of visits and exchanges in 2012 and signed a memorandum of understanding a year later, with the intention of jointly establishing an Oxford research institute in SIP. In April 2015, the two parties agreed the major terms for the venture and have now signed an official collaboration agreement. The agreement was signed by Professor Bradley and SIP's chairman, Yang Zhiping.
OSCAR will be set up in Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District, a district in SIP with a high concentration of science, education and innovation activity.
Earlier this year, the UK's Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson, visited the OSCAR site to hear about the project as part of his trip to China.
Oxford is one of the leading centres for the study of China in Europe and the world, with more than 50 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 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.
For the past 25 years Oxford 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.
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.
Students can study various degree courses focused on China. The main undergraduate degree focused on China at Oxford is the four-year BA in Oriental Studies (Chinese), covering literature, history, anthropology, politics, and art. Students can also study for an MSt in Chinese Studies, focusing on language, history, art and literature, also 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.
Opportunities to Study and Work Abroad
All BA in Oriental Studies (Chinese) students spend their second year in China, attending a course at Peking University which has been especially designed for Oxford’s undergraduates. The Chinese Government offers up to five full scholarships annually to non-Chinese citizens who are currently at the University of Oxford to study a variety of disciplines (primarily at graduate level) at a wide choice of Chinese universities. The Study China Programme, managed by the University of Manchester but open to University of Oxford students, offers a unique opportunity to experience Chinese life, culture, language and business.
Libraries and Museums
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. The Pitt Rivers Museum 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.
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 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 Countries project 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.
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.
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.
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 North-East 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 the 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.
In the mid-1990s, fewer than 100 students from China studied at Oxford. By 2018, this number was almost 1,500. China is the second-largest source of international students at Oxford. Around half of Oxford’s Chinese students are in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences division of the University, with a large concentration also in Social Sciences.
A number of Chinese students hold prestigious Oxford scholarships, such as the Clarendon Scholarships, 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, and by the China Scholarship Council together with the University of Oxford. Other scholarships available to Chinese students include: 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 numerous Nuffield CSC Scholarships.
There are a range of student societies and support groups available to Chinese students at Oxford. 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.
There are more than 240 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 6,700 alumni in China – the second largest concentration outside of the UK. Oxford has active alumni groups in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Jiangsu-Zhejiang and Hong Kong.
Prominent alumni, past and present, include:
- George F Gao, Professor and Director-General, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
- Peng Sen, Vice-Minister, National Development and Reform Commission
- Guo Shuqing, Chairman of the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission
- 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