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 approximately twenty-four million, Australia is currently Oxford's fifth-largest source of students by domicile.
Research on Australia at Oxford 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.
Opportunities to Study and Work Abroad
Current graduate research students at Oxford have the opportunity to undertake a period of study at the Australian National University as part of the Australian National University (ANU) Exchange programme.
Libraries and Museums
The Pitt Rivers Museum’s Australian collections feature more than 15,000 objects, 1350 photographs, and various manuscript archives of curators and collectors of relevant material. Indigenous Australians are not a homogenous group, but rather many interconnecting communities, spread out across the country. The Museum’s collections contain objects from all parts of Australia and reflect both Aboriginal and white settler cultures. The earliest collections date back to the 1820s, and several hundred Australian objects were included in General Pitt Rivers’ original gift to the University in 1884 (the ‘Founding Collection’). More recent additions include acrylic paintings from the western desert movement and boomerangs acquired in the 1990s, plus a series of distinctive bark paintings from Groote Eylandt collected and donated by the noted anthropologist Peter Worsley in 2009.
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences
Global Jet Watch is a unique project linking professional astronomers with schoolchildren around the world to carry out cutting edge research. Dedicated to investigating the behaviour of black holes, it employs small telescopes, strategically separated in longitude around the globe so there is always one in darkness, to provide around the clock data to the headquarters in Oxford. Observatories located in boarding schools in India, Chile, Australia and South Africa are equipped with research-grade instrumentation and bespoke spectrographs providing continuous monitoring of black hole SS433, the first undertaking of its kind. The project seeks in particular to engage girls from around the world and inspire a new generation of scientists.
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.
Geochemists and climate modellers from Oxford collaborate with Griffith University’s National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility, primarily through the UK Climate Impacts Programme, based in Oxford.
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 the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health 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.
The Digital Panopticon is a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield, Tasmania, Oxford and Sussex, with funding from the AHRC. Led by an international team of established researchers, it uses digital technologies to bring together existing and new genealogical, biometric and criminal justice datasets held by different organisations in the UK and Australia, including The National Archives, Find My Past, and Ancestry.com. It explores the impact of different types of punishments on the lives of 90,000 people sentenced at the Old Bailey between 1780 and 1875. The project is funded by the AHRC’s Digital Transformations programme, which aims to exploit the potential of digital technologies to transform research in the arts and humanities, and to ensure that arts and humanities research is at the forefront of tackling crucial issues such as intellectual property, cultural memory and identity, and communication and creativity in a digital age.
Understanding Indonesian: developing a machine-usable grammar, dictionary and corpus was a collaborative project between Oxford's Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics Faculty, the Australian National University and Sydney University to create reliable machine-usable language resources and develop a better understanding of Indonesian grammar. It carried out research on Indonesian to create a robust computational grammar, corpus and lexicon (including social variation) within the Pargram framework. Pargram is an international collaborative project to develop computational grammars within a shared linguistic framework based on common linguistic assumptions, improving machine translation, data mining and other computational linguistic tasks.
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 Sealinks Project is a large multidisciplinary project involving collaboration with individuals and institutions around the Indian Ocean and beyond, including the Australian National University. Its aim is to study the earliest maritime connections that linked up and gradually transformed societies around the Indian Ocean. The project draws upon the methods of archaeology, genetics, linguistics and palaeoenvironmental studies to try to better understand the first steps towards globalisation in the Indian Ocean world, exploring the interplay between the cultural and biological factors that came to shape societies, species and environments in the region.
Oxford and the 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.
There are over 300 Australian citizens currently studying at Oxford, making Australia Oxford’s 8th largest source of international talent in the world. More than three quarters are postgraduate students, of whom the largest group are enrolled in social science programmes. Two thirds of the Australian undergraduate cohort is divided almost equally between social sciences and the humanities.
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, including the Australian Bicentennial Scholarships and Fellowships, the General Sir John Monash Foundation scholarships, Gowrie Scholarships, and the Roberta Sykes Scholarships. The University of Sydney offers the Peter Cameron Scholarship for one of its top graduates to pursue the BCL at Oxford each year.
Many of Oxford’s 164 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.
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 Research Fellow in Neuroscience and Visual Prosthetics, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. 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.
Over 4,800 alumni live in Australia, making it home to the fifth largest concentration of alumni outside the UK. 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. For Oxford’s alumni living in Australia, there are numerous alumni societies across the country, with groups for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
Examples of famous Australian Oxonians abound, including five Prime Ministers:
- Tony Abbot
- Malcolm Fraser
- John Gorton
- Bob Hawke (the longest serving Australian Labor Party Prime Minister)
- Malcolm Turnbull
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:
- Richard Flanagan, author, historian, and film director
- Gerard Vaughan, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria
In addition, three Nobel Prize winning Australians were educated at Oxford:
- Sir John Cornforth won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions.
- Sir John Eccles was co-recipient of the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on synapse
- Lord (Howard) Florey was co-recipient of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine