Oceania region | University of Oxford
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Oceania region

The links between Oxford University and Oceania stretch back to the first days of higher education in Australia and New Zealand. The University of Sydney, created in 1850, was based on the Oxford collegiate model, and its first professors came from Oxford and Cambridge. The University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand was founded in 1873 by virtue of its links with Oxford’s Christ Church, one of the University’s 38 colleges.

Oxford’s solidarity with Oceania extends far beyond shared research interests and academic pursuits. This was demonstrated in 2011 after the earthquake of February 2011 devastated the city of Christchurch including many of the University of Canterbury’s facilities. Oxford offered 42 fully funded places to students from Canterbury University during Trinity term (April-June) 2011 to allow students to continue their studies while their city was rebuilt. Oxford and its colleges created places for 32 undergraduate and ten postgraduate students in the arts, humanities, social sciences and law.


The extent of the links between Oxford and Oceania is demonstrated by the fast-developing set of research projects and collaborations relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Oxford researchers both study the continent, and collaborate extensively with researchers from the region. In Australia and New Zealand these activities have covered a broad spectrum, ranging from topics such as: mortality from smoking; analysis of the causes of desertification in Australia; research collaborations in astrophysics and neuroscience. In addition, Oxford’s collaborations with Australia in the field of legal studies are particularly strong, and include both academic collaborations and exchanges, and student scholarships.

In the Pacific islands, Oxford researchers have worked on a highly diverse range of projects. In zoology, studies have been carried out into the incredibly rare tool-using behaviour of the New Caledonia crow, a highly sophisticated behaviour not found anywhere else in the bird kingdom. In economics, high profile economists in the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) have looked at the economic impacts of state failure on Pacific islands. In anthropology and medical sciences, Oxford DPhil students have undertaken field research in Naura studying the interaction of political and ecological factors on the island’s high rates of obesity. In short, Oxford’s research links with Oceania are diverse and broad-ranging.

Libraries and Museums

Oxford holds important collections of art and artefacts from Australia, New Zealand and the wider Pacific region, and a particularly impressive series of materials from the early exploration of the area is housed in Oxford’s various collections.

The Bodleian Library has strong holdings of material relating to Australia and New Zealand in its collections, including manuscripts and early printed books relating to the early travellers from Europe to the southern Hemisphere; and substantial materials relating to the colonial and post-colonial history of Australia and New Zealand, ranging from diaries and letters to official publications. It also holds a considerable collection of resources relating to pacific island law and anthropology.

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum also hold a number of notable plants from Oceania in its geographic bed relating to the region.

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.

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 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 LiverpoolSheffieldTasmaniaOxford 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.

Social Sciences

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 380 Oceanic citizens currently studying at Oxford, with the largest single group in the social sciences. Most students from Oceania are postgraduates, evenly divided between research and taught degrees.


Scholarships available to students from the Oceania region include the Charlie Perkins Scholarships, the Australian Bicentennial Scholarships and Fellowships, the General Sir John Monash Foundation scholarships, Gowrie Scholarships, the Roberta Sykes Scholarships and the Oxford Australia Scholarship Fund


Oxford’s links with Oceania have also produced a number of world-renowned academics, including several at Oxford today, and leaders in business.

Academics from Oceania span all disciplines and include several prominent experts. At present there are almost 200 academics and research staff from the region working in Oxford. In addition to our academic staff, some of the University’s top leadership have also come from Australia and New Zealand. Sir Kenneth Clinton Wheare and John Hood, former Vice Chancellors of Oxford, were from Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Oxford-Canterbury Academic Exchange Programme

In recognition of the lengthy association between the University of Oxford and the University of Canterbury, New Zealand – a link that dates back to the design of the University of Canterbury's town site, the donation of books to College House, and a series of distinguished Oxford visitors to Canterbury over the years – an academic visitor exchange programme between Oxford and Canterbury was established in 2002.

The goal of the Exchange Programme is to build on the academic links that have already been developed, and to benefit the students and staff of both universities by funding the regular visits of academic staff members. In addition to teaching and research presentations, the exchange also creates opportunities for joint Oxford-Canterbury research, and encourages the exchange of publications and academic materials.

Dr Elizabeth Frood (New Zealand)

Elizabeth Frood is Associate Professor of Egyptology and Fellow of St Cross. Her research centres on features of self-presentation of Egyptian elites in the late second and early first millennium BC. In particular, she focuses on the interpretive analysis of non-royal inscriptions within their broader physical settings, especially temples. Her current fieldwork project to edit and publish graffiti in the temple of Amun at Karnak, in collaboration with the Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Étude des Temples de Karnak, has developed out of this work. Elizabeth is author of Biographical texts from Ramessid Egypt (2007), and is co-editor of the series Contextualising the sacred: Sacred space and its material culture in the ancient Near East and Egypt, 1000 BC – AD 600, and on the editorial board for the Journal of Ancient History. She received her BA and MA from the University of Auckland, and her DPhil from Oxford.

Dr Charlotte Potts (New Zealand)

Charlotte Potts is Sybille Haynes Associate Professor in Etruscan and Italic Archaeology and Art at the Faculty of Classics and Woolley Fellow & Tutor in Classical Archaeology at Somerville College. Her research focuses on analysing the architecture of pre-Roman central Italy in light of modern excavations and theoretical developments. Her teaching likewise spans pre-Roman and Roman material, teaching papers on the archaeology of Italy between the Iron Age and end of the Roman Empire, and she has special interests in Roman art and the archaeology of religion. She received her BA from the Victoria University of Wellington, her MA from UCL and her DPhil from Oxford.


Oceania has more than 6,000 Oxford alumni, concentrated mainly in Australia and New Zealand but also further afield in a number of the Pacific Islands. The region has a total of 11 alumni groups, again concentrated in Australia and New Zealand.

Oxford has educated a number of Oceanians who have gone on to be prominent public figures. These include Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the first Prime Minister (and later President) of Fiji, and, from New Zealand, Sir David Skegg, Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago; John Cornforth, MP for Taurange; and David Kirk, former CEO of Fairfax Media and former captain of the All Blacks.

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