Alibaba founder Jack Ma has donated $26.4 million to the University of Newcastle to fund the university's scholarship program.
The donation follows the launch of Alibaba's first Australian office, in Melbourne, over the weekend and marks the first contribution from the Jack Ma Foundation in Australia. The funds represent the largest donation ever made to the University of Newcastle (UON).
Newcastle was selected due to the Ma's friendship with Ken Morley, a Newcastle electrical engineer he met and become good friends with in his teenage years.
UON Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen said the scholarship would help students reach their full personal and professional potential.
Student eligibility for the scholarship will be based on their interest and commitment towards cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and peace; social justice and equity; fairness and ethics in entrepreneurship and industrial relations; and sustainable development, including environment, conservation and renewable energy.
The scholarship program will also focus on supporting students from disadvantaged and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
In its first year, The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will support 30 new UON scholarships, 20 scholarships to support students throughout the duration of their degree and 10 one-off scholarships to support educational exchange, internship or immersion activities. When the program reaches full capacity, it will support 90 students per year.
The first round of the program will be advertised in mid-2017 for students commencing their first year of an undergraduate degree at UON in 2018.
Morley's son, David Morley, said his family were happy to see Ma remember his Newcastle connection and honour Morley's egalitarian values through the scholarship program.
Ma said he was thankful for Australia and the time he spent here in his early life. "The culture, the landscape and most importantly its people had a profound positive impact on my view of the world at that time," he said.
"Alibaba was built by young people and we are committed to lifting up and empowering students so they can reach their dreams and ambitions."
Alibaba's Melbourne office will operate under managing director Maggie Zhou.
In October, the company's cloud arm hired former VMware David Green to lead the Australian cloud business as head of channels and alliances.