China has become the preferred partner of most Australian universities when it comes to boosting knowledge linkages for student and staff exchange as well as collaborative research.
Results of a study made by Universities Australia have shown that 39 Australian universities have entered into more formal agreements with Chinese counterparts than with any education institution from another country. This meant that the United States, long favoured by Australia as number one ''knowledge partner'' since 1990, has been dethroned by the second-largest economy.
Since 2003, connections forged with China jumped 72 per cent, translating to 885 university agreements with Chinese institutions, compared with 876 with institutions in the U.S.
Out of the 885 agreements, 89 per cent involved academic or research collaboration, 25 per cent on student exchanges, 48 per cent on staff exchanges, while 6 per cent included a study abroad component.
"In 2009, China became Australia's No 1 trading partner. Just three years on, it is also our No 1 knowledge partner," Belinda Robinson, Universities Australia chief executive, said.
The jump meant Australia believes its trading relations with China bodes well for future and successful endeavors.
"Australia decided to capitalise on the opportunities in Asia because it knows that the value of such relationships could translate well for productivity, trade, foreign relations and cultural understanding," Ms Robinson said.
''What we are talking about here is not selling finite resources, but generating infinite knowledge.''
Ms Robinson likewise noted that under the Asian Century White Paper, universities are urged to have at least one major partner in Asia. "But the report shows that we remain ahead of the pack with over 2800 agreements in place."