Oxford has been a major centre for the study of Buddhism for many years, attracting a large number of students from all over the world. In previous decades the emphasis has largely been on graduate studies, with a high proportion of all UK Buddhist studies doctoral degrees coming from Oxford, and with a great many Oxford DPhil graduates filling academic posts in Buddhist studies across the world. More recently, a major benefaction from the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai has fully endowed a Chair of Buddhist Studies at Oxford, which will allow an exciting increase of emphasis on undergraduate provision.
Oxford's resources for teaching Buddhist studies are substantial. Oxford's libraries hold considerable collection of Buddhist materials in both Asian and European languages, ranging from old manuscripts to the latest research publications and digital resources. All major Buddhist languages are taught here to a very high level, together with their associated area studies: Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Free access across the different faculties is generally available to students of Buddhist studies, so that varied disciplinary approaches are supported, each to a very high standard. These include anthropology, philology, history, philosophy, art history, psychology, and religious studies.
The Buddhist Studies Unit of the Faculty of Oriental Studies is housed in the Oriental Institute. The Buddhist Studies Unit is responsible for all academic activities arranged jointly by Oriental Studies and the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which is an independent centre recognised by the University of Oxford. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the field, the Buddhist Studies Unit draws together teaching and research staff who work on Buddhism from various faculties, including Oriental Studies, Theology, and Social Anthropology, as well as from the OCBS. The Buddhist Studies Unit arranges a broad range of seminars and lectures each year, and hosts the OCBS Khyentse Visitorship for Distinguished Scholar Monks and Nuns, which brings pre-eminent Buddhist teachers to Oxford University from all over the world.
More recently, links with psychiatry are coming increasingly to the fore, with the establishing of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre within the Department of Psychiatry. The purpose of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre is to realise the potential of Buddhist-derived mindfulness meditation in promoting mental health. Its director is Professor Mark Williams.