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The Audrey Donnithorne Small Research Grant is meant to support graduate students based at Asian Universities who seek to conduct field research on Asian Catholics. Successful candidates will receive a single allowance of 2,000 SGD to cover their research costs (transportation, housing, food, equipment, etc.).

Funding type: forfeit allowance.

Amount: 2,000 SGD


  • Discipline: research in humanities or social sciences applied to Catholic communities of contemporary Asia.

  • Qualifications: applicants must hold a BA, MA degree, or a recognized equivalent qualification, and be currently studying at an Asia-based university.

  • Languages: applications and final reports must be submitted in English.

  • NB: MA students are eligible.

Application documents comprise:

  1. a cover letter addressed to the ISAC Grant Committee stating the research goals, the dates of the projected period of research, a plan showing how the funds of the grant will be used, as well as (if applicable) any ongoing funding and parallel scholarship application

  2. a description of the research project (600 words) including a research question and a work schedule

  3. a one-page curriculum vitae

  4. a letter of recommendation by the applicant's thesis director or research supervisor,

  5. a photocopy of a valid ID and a photocopy of the student card

To submit an application

  • Send the application documents in PDF format to

  • Applications must be submitted by March 1st, 2022.

To be noticed:

  • Questions regarding the application procedures should be directed to

  • Due to the current health context, ISAC will give priority to applicants who intend to conduct research in their country of current residency.   

  • Successful applicants will be notified by April 15th, 2022.

Successful candidates must:

  • Conduct their research in the course of 2022

  • Submit a report of 4 pages on the results of their field research by 31 Dec. 2022. The report must be submitted in electronic format to


1922- 2020

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Audrey Gladys Donnithorne was a renowned economist who actively cared for Christians in Asia. Born in Sichuan on Nov. 27th, 1922 to evangelical Anglican Missionary parents, Professor Donnithorne became not only a respected scholar specialized in the study of Chinese economy but also an extremely active and ecumenical figure of Asian Christianity who had a unique gift to connect people, eras and civilizations.

Although she was born in China, Audrey Donnithorne spent much of her childhood in England to acquire a British education typical of the late imperial period. In April 1940, she went back to China, spend three years with her parents, and converted to Catholicism. Back in London and having served at the Directorate of Military Intelligence of the War Office where her knowledge of China was already valued, she studied economics at Oxford University.

After graduation, she worked as a research assistant at University College London. In 1967, she published her magnum opus, China’s Economic System, a book she had to research entirely outside China itself. In 1969, she moved to Canberra where she was soon appointed as head of the Contemporary China Center at the Australian National University. With this new geographic proximity and academic status, in 1973 she started to repeatedly visit the People’s Republic of China for academic reasons. These countless trips became unique opportunities to meet with an increasing number of scholars and acquaintances, but also with pastors, priests, and nuns. Thus, Professor Donnithorne was one of the first Westerners to reconnect with Christians on the ground and circulate across provinces.

Yet her growing scholarly focus on mainland China did not prevent her from traveling across Australia, Asia, the Soviet Union, and Europe to the point of finding herself in Nazareth on the morning of Yom Kippur of 1973 or in Tiananmen square on June 3rd 1989. Her annual travels reflect her broad perspective on China, Christianity, and the world.

In 1985, at the age of 63, she retired from academia and moved to Hong Kong. In addition to becoming an honorary member of the Centre of Asian Studies at the University of Hong Kong, she started a new informal career as an ecclesial agent. She mobilized her numerous skills and connections to humbly but actively support the rebirth of Christian communities in China.

As an elderly lady, Professor Donnithorne regularly visited Christians in Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunnan. With her British sense of humor and boldness, she played an essential role in gathering and circulating information, connecting people and institutions, and gathering funding. As a professional economist, she always remained pragmatic and attentive to the material autonomy of Christian communities.

Among the many projects she supported, Audrey Donnithorne set up an organization sending language professors to Chinese universities. In addition to favoring intercultural exchange and professional training, this platform also allowed Western missionaries to find teaching jobs in mainland China and reconnect with the young population. Well aware of her critical contribution, the Holy See awarded her the Pro Ecclesia et Pro Pontifice medal in 1993. In 1995, she became an honorary member of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP). She was also an active member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Nonetheless, in 1997, Audrey Donnithorne was expelled from mainland China. As she protested and asked for explanations, Chinese officials replied that she knew why. She answered that among her many sins she could not tell which ones they were referring to. Nonetheless, she remained well connected with authorities in China, Hong Kong, and abroad. Thus, she continued to nourish an intense correspondence with a wide range of scholars, Protestant and Catholic clergy members, and political leaders. She arranged the publication of countless books and ecclesial materials as well as study abroad programs for many Chinese priests and nuns.  She continued to work closely with the Diocese of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Caritas, and a vast number of congregations to meet the new needs of Chinese Catholics. For example, after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, she set up a fund for the reconstruction of churches in her natal province.

Although her physical strength slowly declined, she kept a sharp mind and a fun spirit until the very end. In 2019, she published her autobiography: “China in Life’s Foreground” (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2019). Yet, affected by recurrent seasonal pneumonia, she peacefully passed away among friends on June 9th, 2020.


If you want to support young Asian researchers and honor the memory of Professor Audrey Donnithorne, please contact Michel Chambon,

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