An increasing number of Australian students will undertake part of their studies in Asia, including at leading Chinese universities, according to UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer.

Professor Hilmer told a gathering of alumni from across the Asia-Pacific region that UNSW students would have the opportunity to graduate as "Global Citizens of the University" through the incorporation of international placements and courses into Australian degrees.

He made the comments in his keynote lecture at UNSW's 60th anniversary reunion in Beijing - held to celebrate the University's 60th anniversary, and coinciding with China's 60th anniversary celebration.

"UNSW's strategic aim is to build on its position as a leading research-intensive university in the Asia Pacific, with particular interest in expanding links to China," he said.

"UNSW recognises the rapid improvement in tertiary education in the region, and the need for international education to be a genuine, two-way exchange; we envisage more Australian students will undertake some aspect of their degree in Asia in the near future.

"Following discussions with a number of Presidents of leading Chinese universities I am confident that, at the working level, Australia's reputation remains sound, despite recent negative publicity. We are increasingly seen as a destination offering quality education and not just a migration pathway.

"I am optimistic about continuing demand from quality students in an expanding range of disciplines," Professor Hilmer said.

The recent opening of a new Confucius Institute at UNSW in partnership with the prestigious Shanghai Jiao Tong University, as well as nine additional collaborations with other top Chinese Universities, will rapidly expand the exchange of students, researchers and academics between Australia and China. UNSW's first academic to take up a short-term post at SJTU under the new agreement left for Shanghai last month.

Tackling environmental challenges, one of UNSW's core strengths, is also driving regional links. Prominent UNSW alumnus, Dr Shi Zhengrong, is Chairman of China's Suntech, the world's largest solar panel manufacturer. Suntech is training the next generation of China's renewable energy engineers through scholarships to UNSW, which has long held numerous world records in photovoltaic efficiency.

The benefits of academic collaboration were starkly illustrated during last year's devastating Sichuan earthquake. UNSW satellite imaging experts provided vital technical data to help the Chinese Earthquake Authority direct rescue teams and predict aftershocks, through a partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

UNSW, founded in 1949, was Australia's first international university and enrolled promising Asia-Pacific students from 1952 on Colombo plan scholarships. UNSW now boasts 200,000 graduates, alumni chapters across Asia and a strong cohort of alumni in China.

Media contact: Judy Brookman | 02 9385 3249 |