Skip to content

Jeffery Burley


Professor Jeffery Burley is an Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, and was the final head of the world-renowned Oxford Forestry Institute before it was fully incorporated into the Department of Plant Sciences.

Prof Burley took an honours degree in Forestry at Oxford (1961) and an MF (1962) and PhD (1965) at Yale where his thesis concerned the genetic variation of Sitka spruce. He then headed the Forest Genetics Research Laboratory of the Agricultural Research Council of Central Africa for four years, living in Zambia and working also in Malawi and Zimbabwe. He returned to Oxford in 1969 and held three successive posts in the University of Oxford – Senior Research Officer for Forest Genetics and Tree Improvement; Lecturer in Wood Structure and Properties; Director, Oxford Forestry Institute, and Professor of Forestry.

In his various appointments at the University of Oxford he provided education, research, advice and information plus actual consultancies to many countries and agencies throughout the world, especially in Africa, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. In addition to his University roles in 1981 Prof Burley was elected to a Fellowship of Green College (now Green Templeton College); he was a Governing Body Fellow (25 years), Vice-Warden (4 years) and Development Fellow (3 years) and following retirement he was elected an Emeritus Fellow. With the support of the then Warden (Sir Crispin Tickell) and the Governing Body of the College, he established the Green College Centre for Natural Resources Management and also negotiated the transfer of the Reuters Journalists Fellowship Programme from Queen Elizabeth House to Green College.

He has had considerable experience in Northeast, South and Southeast Asia. Throughout the 20th century the Oxford Forestry Institute (OFI, formerly the Imperial and later the Commonwealth Forestry Institute) had had direct training and advisory roles for the Indian Forest Research Institute and Colleges at Dehra Dun; Prof Burley undertook many consultancy missions for the UK Government, the World Bank, the British Council and the Swedish Government to the FRI and to most States of India. He was adviser to the Swedish Government’s aid programme in establishing the Indian Institute for Forest Management. For three years he was chairman of the Advisory Council of the Shoolini Institute in Himachal Pradesh. He has given lectures, seminars and conference papers at a variety of institutions and meetings in India.

He was responsible for the planning and management of a major 5-year ODA-funded research and training project at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. He also undertook a forest research consultancy to Myanmar for a Swedish company, six consultancies for the World Bank in China, and two visits to the Republic of Korea..

The OFI, as the leading Institute in the Commonwealth, also had strong relations with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) and for a decade Professor Burley was responsible for a major collaborative assistance project on forest conservation and management. He was also a member of the Advisory Council of FRIM for five years.

In Indonesia Prof Burley was a member of a World Bank mission to appraise a $100 million project to reinvigorate agriculture and forestry and in Bogor he also chaired the external review of the Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR) of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Prof Burley was presented with the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen of England for services to international forestry in 1991. In 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica for his significant contributions to forestry development, education and research in Latin America.

He has been President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (1995–2000), Chairman of the British and Irish Hardwoods Improvement Programme (1999–2004), and Chairman of the Commonwealth Forestry Association (2002-2005). He has also been Chairman of the British and Irish Hardwoods Trust since 2004. Prof Burley is an Honorary Fellow of the Society of American Foresters and of the UK Institute of Chartered Foresters, Honorary Research Professor at the Chinese Academy of Forestry, and Foreign Corresponding Member of the Swedish and Italian Academies. A member of the Marcus Wallenberg Prize Selection Committee since 1994 (and from 1998 to 2006 the Chairman), he is now a member of the Board of the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.

Research areas
• Forestry and agroforestry, especially genetics and tree improvement

Selected publications
• (With Julian Evans, John A Youngquist) Encyclopedia of Forest Sciences, Four-Volume Set, Volume 1-4 (Academic Press. 2004)
• (With Sharma, N., Binkley, C.) “A Global Perspective on Forest Policy,” in
 Managing the World’s Forests. (The World Bank, Washington, DC. 1992)
• (With Peter J Wood) A tree for all reasons: introduction and evaluation of multipurpose trees for agroforestry, Volume 5 of Science and practice of agroforestry (World Agroforestry Centre. 1991)