Australia/China Research Network on Planning Global City-Regions

A three-year Melbourne School of Design project is facilitating international research in global city-regions.

Attendees of the research network meeting hosted by Tsingshua University in December 2015.

City-regions: the child of economic and population growth

City-regions are conglomerates of cities, where neighbouring cities have grown to the extent that they bleed into one another.

“They can present challenges in infrastructure and governance, and require a re-specialisation of services and manufacturing. City-regions undergo social and economic change as they merge and grow, and there are also environmental impacts – arable land is often lost and pollution increases.”

City-regions are already reorganising and driving Asian regional economies. For example, changes occurring in China are already having an impact on the Darwin port economy.

The research network

Led by Sun Sheng Han, Professor of Urban Planning at the Melbourne School of Design, the ‘Australia/China Research Network on Planning Global City‚ÄźRegions’ project was awarded a University of Melbourne Research Network and Consortia grant to fund a series of international workshops.

The first of these workshops was hosted by Tsinghua University, Beijing, in December 2015.

An open-structure and sustainable research network was established with key Chinese partner institutions as a platform for researchers from Australia and China to exchange knowledge and ideas about global city-region research, according to Professor Han.

“There is a heightened urgency in understanding this new urban giant, especially in regions where rapid urban changes are taking place.”

By focussing on mutually interested themes, the network of elite researchers will be a source of innovation and a bank of world-wide case studies in the research area.

“The interactions between network members are leading to collaboration opportunities in research, graduate student supervision, and student exchange; and we hope the network will open up new collaboration opportunities for young Australian and Chinese researchers,” says Professor Han.

Building from collective expertise

The network is already leading to new opportunities for students. MSD and Tongji University will launch a new Student Exchange agreement in 2016. Undergraduate and graduate students will study in Shanghai be exposed to the world’s fastest developing country.

The first workshop in December brought together students and researchers working across urban planning, sociology, transport and big data. “The conversation across such different disciplines was very stimulating and it is exciting to consider how this will flow through to curriculum at the project’s partner institutions.”

The project will place the University of Melbourne in a leading role for the development of this timely research agenda.

“In the long run, the project will serve as a significant push-factor for the University of Melbourne to be the centre of research and training in urban and regional planning in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Professor Han.

The second meeting of the research network was hosted in Shanghai December 2016. The University of Melbourne will host the final workshop in April 2018.

Research network institutions:

  • University of Melbourne
  • Tsinghua University
  • Tongji University
  • Renmin University of China
  • Nanjing University
  • Chang’an University


29-30 April 2018:  3rd International Symposium of Australia-China Research Network on Global City Regions

Download Symposium Program

For similar projects, check the Future Cities research direction.

Project details

Major Sponsor

University of Melbourne Research Network and Consortia Grant


Prof Sun Sheng Han
Lead Investigator, Professor of Urban Planning