Expanding Academic Excellence: KF’s New Partnership with the University of Sydney

Dr Chiew Hui Ho; Lecturer in East Asian Buddhism; Sydney Jay, KF Academic Development Committee;
Guy Houghton, Associate Director of Development; Professor Yixu Lu, Head of School of Languages and Cultures; Chantal Gebbie, KF Country Representative for Australia; Dr. Jim Rheingans, Khyentse-UBEF Lecturship in Tibetan Buddhis; Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche; Dr Eng-Kong Tan, University Buddhist Education Foundation executive member; Dr Rosalie Chapple, Aberbaldie Foundation executive member. Missing from the photo (but who presented in the ceremony) are Professor Annamarie Jagose, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Dr. Matthew Stavros, Director of the Asian Studies Program.

In August 2017, Khyentse Foundation celebrated a groundbreaking partnership with the University of Sydney in Australia, establishing a new academic position in Tibetan Buddhist Studies. The lectureship – called the “Khyentse Foundation and University Buddhist Education Foundation Lectureship in Tibetan Buddhism” (KF-UBEF) – is jointly funded by KF and UBEF (with support from the Aberbaldie Foundation), and has an initial term of 5 years. The lectureship was officially inaugurated on August 11, 2017 at the university. Rinpoche, KF representatives, and the core partnership team all attended.Digital Storytellers was on the ground to document the occasion and interview key players. Watch their video of the inauguration.

Thanks to the KF-UBEF Lectureship and the courses to be offered through it, the University of Sydney now offers the most comprehensive Buddhist Studies program in the Australasian region and in the Southern Hemisphere.

Together, the Indian and Buddhist Studies programs at the University of Sydney have one of the largest postgraduate student research communities at the university. Many of these researchers are international students, including Buddhist monks and nuns. Their  research covers the creation of editions, translations, and studies of original Buddhist texts in Sanskrit, Pali, Gandhari, Chinese, and Tibetan, focusing on such wide-ranging topics as Buddhist meditation, Buddhist literature and stories, aspects of the history of Buddhist thought, Buddhist practices, Buddhism in Australia, contemporary expressions of Buddhism, and the ordination of Buddhist nuns.

Until inauguration of the KF-UBEF position, no faculty members had concentrated expertise in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan language.  Lacking exposure to Tibetan Buddhism, many students felt that the university’s Buddhist Studies program was not complete. Now, through the KF-UBEF lectureship, the university offers a wider study of Buddhist traditions (particularly Tibetan traditions), in a wider variety of contexts, and to a larger number of students.

Many students who take courses with Buddhist content at the University of Sydney do so as part of a degree in arts, economics, psychology, social work, commerce, or education; most don’t specialize in Buddhist Studies. However, the exposure to Buddhist content helps shape students’ outlook, in their university careers and in their lives beyond university.

After conducting an exhaustive search and interviewing several excellent candidates, the University of Sydney offered the KF-UBEF position to Dr. Jim Rheingans, former acting professor for Tibetan Studies at the University of Bonn in Germany. Dr. Rheingans holds an MA in Tibetan Studies from the University of Hamburg and a PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of the West of England. His  research interests include Tibetan literature and genre, religious history, and Buddhism. He begins his tenure in September 2017, teaching Buddhist Studies units in the Asian Studies program, and Sanskrit in the Department of Indian Subcontinental Studies. He will also supervise honors and postgraduate research students.

Dr. Marc Allon, chair of the Department of Indian Subcontinental Studies, said, “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Jim Rheingans to the university and to our department. Dr Rheingans is an excellent scholar, has published interesting material, and in addition to his command of Sanskrit and classical Tibetan, is also fluent in colloquial Tibetan, having served as an interpreter for Tibetan communities in Germany. We have no doubt that Dr. Rheingans will be an outstanding addition to our Buddhist Studies program, and we look forward to working with him.”

 

Khyentse Foundation is honored to support academic excellence – not just at the University of Sydney, but worldwide. With the help of our donors, we look forward to continuing such partnerships for many years.