There has been a strong bond between the University of Oxford and Australia since the first European settlement of the continent. In fact, many of the original settlers and colonists were Oxonians, among them John Garrett Bussell, a prominent settler and Sir Richard Bourke, governor of New South Wales from 1831-1837. Today a striking number of top Australian students and scholars find their way to Oxford: with a population of just twenty million, Australia is Oxford's fifth-largest source of students (276) and sixth largest source of academic staff (127).
Research on Australia at Oxford University is conducted across a range of disciplines and departments. Comparative research on Australia takes place in the faculties of law, politics, economics, and sociology.
In the medical sciences, the Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit included Australia in its study of mortality from smoking in developed countries, and have shown that deaths from lung cancer in Australia have now gone down to pre-1950s levels, after peaking in the 1970s, thanks to worldwide education about the dangers of smoking.
Geochemists and climate modellers from Oxford have been studying extreme weather conditions and the recent flooding in Queensland, and have published research predicting that such extreme climatic events will become more frequent in the future.
As these examples of Oxford scientists demonstrate, Oxford University researchers continue to make a notable impact on the lives of Australian people.
Connections in Law
The Faculty of Law has a strong concentration of Australian scholars and is building on its links to Australian universities. There are a number of research collaborations with the University of Melbourne in particular; overall, more than 20 legal academics at Melbourne and Oxford have visited each other’s university under the Oxford Melbourne Law School Research Partnership.
A generous gift from Allan Myers AO QC has supported the Faculty exchanges, and also enables Oxford and Melbourne to fund scholarships to bring Melbourne graduates to Oxford for the world renowned BCL (Bachelor Civil Law). Melbourne Law School students who enroll in the program will be able to earn both a JD from Melbourne and a BCL — Bachelor of Civil Law, akin to an LLM — from Oxford. Students will spend two and a half years at Melbourne and one year at Oxford, earning both degrees in three and a half years.
The University of Sydney offers the Peter Cameron Scholarship for one of its top graduates to pursue the BCL at Oxford each year.
In the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, Oxford has extensive collaborative scientific ties with major Australian universities. Oxford chemists are collaborating with University of Sydney’s School of Chemistry, particularly in the field of sustainable chemistry and processes (or ‘Green Chemistry’).
Physicists in the Oxford Terahertz Photonics Group, a research group within the sub-department of Condensed Matter Physics, are working with colleagues at the department of Electronic Materials Engineering in the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering at the Australian National University. There are collaborations in astrophysics through the University’s participation in the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), a joint research centre for broad astrophysics which aims to answer the most fundamental questions about the universe’s inception and its nature.
CAASTRO is led by the University of Sydney, and other participating Australian institutions include the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Swinburne University of Technology. Other global collaborating partners include the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, California Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, and Université Pierre et Marie Curie. Collaboration between Oxford University and researchers from the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility at the University of Western Australia resulted in the discovery of what is thought to be the earliest known life on earth. Using microscopy and microanalysis, the team discovered 3.4 billion year-old fossilised bacteria in rocks from the Pilbara region.
Collaborations in the Medical Sciences
In the Medical Sciences, Oxford scientists are collaborating with Queensland Clinical Trials & Biostatistics Centre in the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health. The team is working on a research programme to develop a method of continuous monitoring of blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes with the aim of developing a system to warn patients about early warning signs of hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia.
Oxford academics in the Department of Experimental Psychology, the Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain, and the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences are collaborating with colleagues in Florey Neuroscience Institutes at the University of Melbourne to develop a non-invasive brain stimulation technique using tiny amounts of electrical charge which can produce increased brain function performance in both patients with impaired brain function and healthy patients.
In the kind of multidisciplinary partnership that is characteristic of Oxford research, the team are also collaborating with the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, the Faculty of Philosophy and the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics to investigate the ethical implications of such a discovery.
Oxford and Australian National University are both members of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). Together the members are tackling major research projects, offering a Global Summer Programme that brings together students from the IARU universities, facilitating staff exchanges, and taking action on critical university issues such as campus sustainability. Through their IARU connection, Oxford and the Australian National University have agreed a staff exchange scheme through which a member of the administrative staff from Oxford spends a year working at ANU. Additionally, one place is available for a current graduate research student at Oxford to undertake a period of study at the Australian National University (ANU). See ANU Student Exchange.
There are nearly 300 Australian citizens currently studying at Oxford, making Australia Oxford’s 5th largest source of international talent in the world. More than three quarters are postgraduate students. The largest group of Australian students, including both undergraduate and postgraduate, are enrolled in social science programmes.
Australian students have access to an extensive range of scholarships, creating almost 100 funded places per year. The Oxford Australia Scholarship Fund was established in 1993 by donations from Australian Oxford graduates and since 1998, has supported 68 Australian scholars studying at the University of Oxford. It provides partial support for up to eight young Australians per year at post graduate or second Bachelor degree level. Since 2011, the Scholarship has increased the value of its awards in partnership with the Oxford University Clarendon Scholarships.
The Charlie Perkins Scholarships were established in 2009 to commemorate Dr Charles Perkins AO, who was the first Indigenous Australian man to graduate from university and the first Indigenous head of an Australian Government department. These Scholarships are earmarked for high-achieving Australian aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander scholars. In addition, Australian students enjoy a range of funding opportunities from external sources.
Many of Oxford’s 127 Australian academics are teaching and research staff, a number of whom came to the UK to study and have stayed in Oxford as academics. Oxford’s Australian academics and scientists are active in all of the University’s divisions and are pioneering cutting edge research using Oxford’s world-class facilities. In addition, some of the university’s most senior administrative staff come from Australia, including Glenn Swafford, the Director of Research Services, who joined Oxford from the University of Melbourne.
Professor Peter Donnelly
Peter Donnelly is Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and Professor of Statistical Science. He uses mathematical and computational methods to analyse DNA variation data in order to identify the genetic basis of various diseases. He became the youngest professor in the UK when he took up a chair at the University of London at the age of 29. He has been elected to the membership or fellowship of a range of prestigious organisations, including the International Statistical Institute, the Institute of Actuaries, the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Professor Donnelly was born in Brisbane, and obtained his BSc in Mathematics from the University of Queensland. He then came to Oxford to do his DPhil in mathematics at Balliol College as a Rhodes Scholar.
Dr Stephen Hicks
Dr Hicks is an Australian researcher in Clinical Neurology at Oxford. He is designing a set of glasses packed with technology normally seen in smart phones and games consoles to aid people who are legally blind or have almost no eyesight. The glasses will use tiny video cameras, microprocessors, and LED arrays (in lieu of lenses) to create a simplified representation of the visual field. The work has been honoured by the Royal Society in London, a fellowship of the world’s most eminent scientists, as one of the twenty projects exemplifying the latest in British science.
Dr Hicks grew up in Sydney and completed his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Sydney in 2005.
Australia is home to the fourth largest concentration of Oxford alumni in the world. The University’s alumni are involved in every kind of career imaginable, from business to non-profit work, from the civil service to sports. Oxford has a particular concentration of Australian alumni in academia, the legal profession, and politics.
Examples of famous Australian Oxonians abound, including three Prime Ministers:
- Malcolm Fraser
- John Gorton
- Bob Hawke (the longest serving Australian Labor Party Prime Minister)
Prominent Oxonian business leaders include:
- Patrick Forth, managing partner of Boston Consulting Group Sydney
- David Kirk, former chief executive officer of Fairfax Media and Chairman of Hoyts Cinemas
- Tim Sims, co-founder and managing director, Pacific Equity Partners
- Steven Skala AO, Vice Chairman, Deutsche Bank for Australia and New Zealand
In the arts, Oxford alumni include:
- Gerard Vaughan, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria
- Richard Flanagan, author, historian, and film director
In addition, three Nobel Prize winning Australians were educated at Oxford:
- Lord (Howard) Florey was co-recipient of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- Sir John Eccles was co-recipient of the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on synapse
- Sir John Cornforth won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions.
For Oxford’s alumni living in Australia, there are numerous alumni societies across the country, with groups based in Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns. Societies hold regular sporting and social events.