3 August 2016

Lancaster University joins with Chinese partners to create a new environment institute on the largest university campus in southern China

The Joint Institute for Environmental Research and Education (JIE) will be based in Guangzhou, the biggest city in southern China, and will focus on research into soil, water, environmental restoration and new forms of energy. 

The Institute is a collaboration between Lancaster Environment Centre, the South China Agricultural University (SCAU) and the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry (GIGCAS), part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Representatives from the three institutions met in Guangzhou in July to sign a collaborative agreement.

A joint Environmental Science undergraduate degree, where Chinese students spend two years studying in SCAU and two in Lancaster, is also being launched, with a pilot cohort of students starting in September 2016 and recruitment underway for 2017.

The hub of the Institute, which will open this autumn, will be joint offices, meeting facilities, accommodation and laboratories, in a refurbished building on the SCAU campus.  State of the art equipment is being provided by the GIGCAS.

Staff from all three institutions will work in the laboratories, which will provide a base for Lancaster staff and students who are carrying out research in China. 

“The themes of the Joint Institute, particularly soil and water, have been made national priorities in China so there is a lot of research funding available in those areas,” said  Professor Kevin Jones, director of the Lancaster Environment Centre. “This is not just about doing research in China, it also involves working with the Chinese to do international research in the rest of Asia, Africa and across the world.

“There is funding available to send secondees to China for up to two years and Lancaster staff will also have the opportunity to spend extended periods in China working up joint research proposals on soil and water. Professor Nick Ostle will be going there to work on soil and Professor Andy Sweetman will be looking at catchment management in the Pearl River Delta.

“The new degree programme is very exciting, responding to the high interest in the environment in the region. We will be training the next generation of Chinese environmental scientists.”

There will also be PhD projects with students having one supervisor from Lancaster and one in China, and positions for masters students who want to study in China for one or two years.

Dr David Tyfield, from Lancaster Environment Centre. is executive director of the new Institute, alongside two colleagues from SCAU and GIGCAS.  He has just spent two years based in Guangzhou running the International Research & Innovation Centre for the Environment (I-RICE), a joint platform between Lancaster Environment Centre, GICCAS and the CAS Institute of Urban Environment, Xiamen.

“We are now bringing SCAU into this established partnership,” David explains. “It is the best university in South China in the environmental agriculture field and is perfectly aligned with the Lancaster Environment Centre.

“It will give Lancaster University a unique institutional presence for collaborative research in South China.  My task will be to build on the momentum and turn the plans into a flourishing institution.”