Creating a world-leading Southeast Asian Studies Centre at the University of Oxford



Southeast Asia is rich in history and cultural traditions, with an economic dynamism that is creating rapid change and burgeoning global influence. It has a fast-growing middle class, increasing investments in education, an expanding tourism industry, and industrialised dynamic regions with buoyant opportunities for international trade and investment. Against the backdrop of this thriving economy, the UK, in particular, is strengthening its focus on relations with Southeast Asia.

As well as its rich cultural and social history, the region has a fertile rcent history of social movements and politically active citizens. It displays a remarkable diversity of political regimes, potent economic development, vibrant religious landscapes and cultural characteristics. It is also home to some of the most successful transformations in society.
To understand the exponential changes taking place in this important region and their potential consequences for the world, it is essential to assemble a community of specialists at the forefront of scholarship, whose work gives the region due attention, has tangible relevance and impact, and can facilitate fruitful exchange of ideas.

The University of Oxford plans to address these needs by creating a new, permanent Southeast Asian Studies Centre. The centre will be based at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and will have shared posts and teaching across several other key University departments: Geography and the Environment; Anthropology and Museum Ethnography; Politics and International Relations; Development Studies; History; the Blavatnik School of Government; and the Oxford Internet Institute. Fellows and students in this new University centre may be associated with a number of colleges and all will benefit from:

     i. the special relationship between OSGA and St Antony’s College, which is the established intellectual hub for Area Studies scholars and activities across the University
     ii. the formidable strengths of Oxford’s libraries and museums, which contain some of the world’s most significant resources on Southeast Asia.     

The centre will act as a global resource for knowledge, analysis and teaching, and will play a pivotal role in forging connections, nurturing talent from the region, and expanding opportunities for collaboration.


Establishing a world-leading Southeast Asian Studies Centre


The University of Oxford’s Southeast Asian Studies Centre will have unrivalled reach and impact. OSGA promises a programme that will enhance the visibility of Southeast Asian studies within the University, the United Kingdom and around the world. Supported by Oxford’s existing status as the recognised world-leader in academic area studies, the new centre will become an important global hub for discussion among academics, policymakers and private enterprise. It will produce policy papers and scholarly publications, and provide curriculum resources.

The centre will also focus on training outstanding students from Southeast Asia and the rest of the world, equipping them with graduate degrees in relevant areas of study across the social sciences and humanities.

This centre will facilitate fruitful exchanges of students and faculty between Oxford and Southeast Asian universities. It will support mutually beneficial and groundbreaking research in ASEAN countries. Instrumental to this vision is the establishment of seven new associate professorships. These will be shared posts with a broad range of our outstanding departments.

We anticipate their specialisms to be:

• Environmental sustainability of Southeast Asia to study the management of natural and cultural habitats across different countries; the varied experiences of climate change and pollution challenges; struggles over natural resources; and the implications of technologies, urbanisation and global value chains for food production and food consumption.

• Regional governance (ASEAN) to study the diversity in public policy, governance and administration in different countries in the region. The postholder will explore the intersection of local, regional and global dynamics on public policy formation and in-depth case studies of administrative and governance reforms; and how state, business and civil society interact to shape national and ASEAN public policy agendas.

• Politics and international relations of Southeast Asia to explore the diverse political systems of countries in the region; national responses to human security challenges, such as crime and poverty; regional and international security issues; and the implications of the rise of Southeast Asian nations for the regional and global order.

• Political economy of Southeast Asia to explore the political and institutional underpinnings of the dramatic economic growth and structural transformation across the region. This incorporates attention to state interventions in markets; the politics of public infrastructure investment; state and corporate relations; labour movements and industrial relations; and multilateral and exclusive trade relations in the region and beyond. Furthermore, the postholder will explore the expansion of sub-regional economic growth zones, as the global economic centre of gravity increasingly shifts toward the region.

• Digital economy of Southeast Asia to study the expansion of the digital economy of Southeast Asia and explore how those changes are transforming societies, while creating dynamic changes. The postholder will study the impacts of changing connectivity on economies, societies and politics throughout Southeast Asia.

• Southeast Asian Visual Anthropology to study how people in Southeast Asian countries produce and consume visual culture. This includes attention to the Southeast Asian film industries; different television and viewing cultures within countries and across the region; advertising and consumer subcultures; and the changing technological aspects of visual culture, for instance, in video gaming, sci-fi art, and fashion and design.

• History of Southeast Asia to study Southeast Asia over the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, including the interaction between indigenous states and wider trading networks and seaborne powers; the experience of western colonialism, decolonisation and nationalism; the dynamics of social and religious change; and the influence of historical memory and representation in the contemporary era.

These seven key posts will expand the University’s ability to host and facilitate dialogue and exchange with Southeast Asian scholars and institutions. The centre will provide a thriving environment for teaching a new generation of students from all over the world in Southeast Asia studies. We aim to bring the wealth of Southeast Asian experiences and perspectives into wider comparative debates about the world, and highlight the study of Southeast Asia within diverse disciplines. This will ensure even wider and deeper exposure to Southeast Asian nations, and a greater understanding of this vital region.


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“By creating a dedicated focus for research and teaching excellence in Southeast Asian Studies, Oxford will make a significant contribution to the global academy. Very few universities in the world can match Oxford for the range and intensity of its academic expertise. This ambitious, thoughtfully-integrated knowledge enterprise will put Southeast Asia at its heart, benefitting both the citizens of the ASEAN countries and the people of the wider world.”

HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah, Patron to the Southeast Asian Studies Centre

The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies

The University of Oxford has been ranked number one for the third successive year in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Oxford’s provision of area studies has been ranked first in the country in the UK Government’s last Research Excellence Framework, as well as first in recent consecutive global QS rankings for the field.


The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) boasts the largest community of area studies scholars anywhere in the world. It has internationally renowned research and teaching programmes dedicated to Africa, China, Israel, Japan, Latin America, Russia and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.

OSGA faculty speak the languages of the regions they study and spend much time on collaborative projects with academics in the region. OSGA scholars’ expertise runs deep and wide; it extends from the village or the town up to regional and national levels; and it reaches into the past to help understand the present, while remaining informed by a deep understanding of real-world events. Our researchers provide commentary to media outlets, governments and think tanks.

OSGA’s 160-plus postgraduate students come from around the world. They arrive in Oxford with prior study and work experience across a range of fields. OSGA classrooms and seminars host the kinds of conversations that seldom happen anywhere else, by bringing together faculty, visiting scholars and students from diverse backgrounds in a trusted and neutral space. OSGA seeks to ensure that the vital study of Southeast Asia attracts the same resources and profile as our activities covering other regions.



Over the years, superbly trained graduates of OSGA have gone on to significant roles around the world. Many have pursued doctoral studies and teaching careers, thus preserving crucial intellectual capital in their regional specialisms. Other graduates have taken up high-profile posts within international agencies, global NGOs, international governments and ministries, the diplomatic services of various countries, the military, media and journalism, business consultancy, banking and law, and the arts.

With the establishment of a Southeast Asian Studies Centre, OSGA will bring new focus to the study and teaching of Southeast Asia.

The centre and its academics will conduct world-leading research, bringing together the best experts in Oxford and the wider world to share their insights and knowledge. The centre will become crucial, both in educating the brightest and most talented students as future experts in the region, and as a promoter of knowledge and understanding of Southeast Asia as a key player in the global order. It will also build collaborative links with researchers and institutions in Southeast Asia, to enhance research capacity within this vibrant and dynamic region.


Next steps

We hope that this document demonstrates the University of Oxford’s commitment to establishing a world-leading Southeast Asian Studies Centre. We look forward to discussing this opportunity with you further and advancing our shared vision.


Contact details

If you would like more information, please contact:

Professor Sarah Whatmore
Head of Social Sciences Division, University of Oxford
Hayes House, 75 George Street, Oxford OX1 2BQ, United Kingdom
T +44 (0)1865 614853 | E

Frewyeni Kidane, Principal Development Executive
University of Oxford Development Office, University Offices
Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JD, United Kingdom
T +44 (0)1865 611538 | E



“The University of Oxford makes a priceless and distinctive contribution to the lives of people on an international scale. We are delighted that this opportunity has arisen to work with visionary benefactors to strengthen Oxford’s ties with the ASEAN countries. It is my fervent hope that we can go forward together, and help build a better world.”

Lord Patten of Barnes, Chancellor of the University of Oxford