Melbourne and Tsinghua establish virtual campus

A cloud-based 'virtual' campus will be established between Melbourne and Tsinghua universities following the signing of an agreement between the heads of the two institutions.

A Melbourne release said the 'C-Campus' agreement would enable joint classes and 'e-subjects' to be offered to students at both institutions, starting with advanced courses on separation science and technology in chemical engineering.

It would also function as a platform for research collaboration across disciplines, including chemical engineering and medicine initially, with more disciplines to be added progressively.

This is the second c-campus to be set up by Tsinghua, which signed an agreement with Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology in 2012.

"To respond to the strong trend of online education, c-campus is a new attempt to make use of virtual technologies and share the elite courses between Tsinghua and its prestigious partners in the world. We are pleased to make it happen with Melbourne," said Professor Chen Jining, president of Tsinghua University.

The 'c' in c-campus has multiple connotations, from cloud learning to cooperation, cyber innovation to cross discipline, said Professor Zhang Yi, Tsinghua's vice-provost.

"It is an advanced model for real-time interactive e-teaching, e-learning, e-seminars and other web-based activities, which will be of great benefit to international cooperation in a more convenient and effective way," Zhang said.

Both universities have committed to establish seed funds to stimulate further joint research and innovation in online learning.

The agreement expands on a 25-year history of collaboration between the two universities and a 2013 agreement that provides for joint PhD degrees, the first time Tsinghua has partnered with an Australian university on a university-wide PhD agreement.

Melbourne Vice-chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said the c-campus would provide new opportunities for both universities: "This agreement will act as a platform to support Tsinghua-Melbourne cooperation across research, education and innovation, and support the implementation of new web-based learning tools.

"We've been very pleased with the existing work we have done with Tsinghua University, such as that led by Professor Peter Scales and the Australia-China Joint Research Centre on River Basin Management. This new agreement is an exciting next step."

The latest agreement follows this week's signing of an agreement between Melbourne and Peking universities to establish a joint centre for psychiatric research and training.