The University of Birmingham and the University of Melbourne have signed an expansive new agreement to formally collaborate on research, education, and cultural engagement.

The partnership will strengthen the existing collaboration between the universities, with the centrepiece being 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 ($4 million AUD) ‘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(A$200,000) 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.

UoM signing

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.

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.”

“This partnership will build strongly off a multi-faceted relationship that already exists with Birmingham, and we’re thrilled that the Priestley Fellowships will bring our two institutions together even more closely than before.”

The two universities have been collaborating since 1996 and there is considerable work between individual academics; at last count, the universities had academic co-authors on approximately 500 research papers since 2010.  The institutions already run joint PhDs in medicine and life sciences.

The agreement allows for the continuation of teaching of an International Public Management subject, co-designed by academics at Birmingham and the Melbourne School of Government, with a potential expansion to include a joint research workshop.

Melbourne and Birmingham already work closely with the University of Delhi to deliver an intensive MA module in India. This explores international security with reference to South Asian topics and challenges. It draws staff and students from all three universities.

A cultural engagement strand to the partnership will expand the successful International Museums and Collections exchange programme for Birmingham and Melbourne students, and will support collaboration that draws upon each institution’s unique cultural assets.

Over the next two years, the proposed staff mobility fund will allow academic staff from both institutions to visit counterparts and collaborators at the other, further building the institutional relationship between the two universities and leading to new projects and initiatives. Both universities remain committed to exploring enhanced mobility and study programmes for students.


Notes to Editors                      

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The University of Melbourne is Australia’s number one university and 33rd in the world according to the latest Times Higher Education rankings.
  • Universitas 21 is the leading global network of research-intensive universities, working together to foster global citizenship and institutional innovation through research-inspired teaching and learning, student mobility, connecting our students and staff, and wider advocacy for internationalisation.

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or  +44 (0)782 783 2312 or 

David Scott, Media Specialist, University of Melbourne on +613 8344 0561 or 0409 024 230 or