Sydney Uni opens new Suzhou base

James Riley
Editorial Director

Innovation and technology will be used as the hooks for Sydney University to launch its first research centre in China – indeed its first facility of any kind – in China, in the southern city of Suzhou, near Shanghai next month.

The latest move to launch the University of Sydney Centre in China, with the help of a “small” grant from the Chinese government, continues the institution’s strong focus on China under the administration of its vice-chancellor Michael Spence.

Mr Spence took the reins at the university in 2008 and was recently given a two year extension that will take him through to 2020, the end-point in his 10 year reform plan.

Suzhou calling: Sydney University is setting up a direct presence on the mainland

“The University of Sydney has a long history of engagement with China, and the establishment of the [centre] signifies our continuing commitment to that engagement,” Professor Stephen Garton, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney told

“The Suzhou location – linked by a high-speed rail network to all provinces and regions – gives the Centre to be an accessible base to explore new opportunities for collaboration and exchange across China.”

The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) and the development within it of the Dushu Education, Science and Innovation District – where the centre is located – has attracted local and foreign universities and research institutes to help them link with China’s industrial base.

“This important platform provided by the Suzhou Industrial Park for nurturing talent and innovation will be central to achieving the goals of the University of Sydney Centre in China.”

The centre will have up to 10 staff, but the university would not disclose how much was being invested beyond the fact that the “Chinese Government has provided the University with a small grant to ensure that the business park in which the centre is located is successful,” a University spokesperson said.

Right now Sydney Uni does not have any facilities in China but it has developed significant and long-standing academic partnerships with numerous mainland universities, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tsinghua University, and the University of Hong Kong.

“The University’s 2016-20 Strategic Plan details our plan to develop a focused approach to global engagement. This new Centre in China is a key plank of the University’s broader strategy to increase engagement with China, and will serve as a research and education hub for the University to increase intellectual exchange and collaboration,” Professor Garton said.

Those plans are also aimed at providing the new opportunities for staff mobility, research and educational cooperation, student exchange and in-country educational and research experiences.

The former head of law at Oxford University in England and an alumnus of Sydney Uni, Dr Spence, who is also an Anglican priest, has spent time learning to speak Mandarin and write Chinese script.

In 2010 the University, which already has a cross disciplinary United States Studies Centre, established the China Studies Centre under one its most storied China scholars, Professor David Goodman.

Earlier this year, the CSC appointed Professor Jeffery Riegel as its new director. Dr Reigel received his PhD in Chinese from Stanford University in 1978 and spent most of his academic career at the University of California, Berkeley.

He joined Sydney University as Head of the School of Languages and Cultures in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in 2007.

Sydney University has an increasing number of overseas students from China. There are now more than 12,000 Chinese students on campus, representing about 20 per cent of the student body, the spokesperson said.

“Around two-thirds of the Chinese students study at Masters-level and above, and all are an integral part of our diverse and inclusive campus community.”

This was a significant increase from a decade ago when Chinese students on campus represented around 7 per cent of the student body.

The November 11 launch of the Suzhou Centre will feature addresses from Australian Ambassador to China Jan Adams, Tsinghua University Professor of Economics Dr Ying Lowrey, and James Alexander co-founder of startup accelerator program INCUBATE.

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