The University of Birmingham has agreed an expansive new agreement with the University of Melbourne which will see academics from the city and Australia working closer together.

The partnership aims to improve collaboration on research, education, and cultural engagement.

The centrepiece is a joint PhD programme co-funded by both institutions giving up to 20 ‘Priestley Scholars’ in engineering the opportunity to study alongside world-leading academics in Birmingham and Melbourne.

The £2 million ‘Priestley PhD Fellowships’ programme reflects the unique, 20-year relationship between the universities, which have a shared history in Sir Raymond Priestley, the British geologist and Antarctic explorer who was Vice-Chancellor of both institutions.

Working together across shared areas of priority research including energy storage, biomechanics, artificial intelligence and robotics will lead to high-quality research with global impact, and provide exciting research opportunities for PhD students.

Beyond the Fellowships, the agreement also provides for a £100,000 collaborative fund to encourage close working between academics in each university and increase exchanges between the UK and Australia.

And staff at both institutions will collaborate across a range of cultural areas drawing upon each institution’s unique special collections, including an extension of the successful Birmingham-Melbourne International Museums and Collections exchange programme.

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood and University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis signed the partnership agreement at a special ceremony held at Melbourne’s Parkville campus this afternoon.

Professor David Eastwood
Professor David Eastwood

Sir David said: “Signing our strategic partnership heralds an exciting new era of close collaboration that will lead to high-quality research with global impact as well as exciting education initiatives for students.

“Our universities are founding members of Universitas 21 - the leading global network of research-intensive universities. We are natural partners with a shared history through Sir Raymond Priestley, who was Vice-Chancellor of both institutions, and I am delighted that we have taken this significant step towards further strengthening our successful relationship.”

Professor Davis said: “This is a significant change in our relationship with Birmingham, and an extremely positive one at that. At Melbourne we have made it a priority to establish deep partnerships with leading universities around the world that would provide for excellent research collaboration and student mobility opportunities, and that is why today’s announcement is a welcome one.”