Australia Scholarships Asia New Colombo Plan
JULIE Bishop has a vision. The incoming foreign minister wants to change the way Australia engages with the Asia-Pacific. How? By sending large numbers of Australian undergraduates to study and work in the region as part of their degree.
Bishop is thinking big. She is also thinking long term. Like the original Colombo Plan – in which thousands of Asian students studied in Australia from the 1950s to 1980s – she wants this new primarily outward-bound scheme to last for decades, not just an electoral cycle or two.
Tony Abbott has committed $100 million for a five-year pilot scheme and a trial has been scheduled for next year.
Bishop has been working hard to generate support among business, consulting widely and identifying champions such as ANZ and the Macquarie Group.
The response has been encouraging. For the plan to work, it is also vital, however, to generate demand among students, get academics on board, and allay the concerns of university administrators that the program could force them to redirect resources or divert federal funding from other programs in the sector….
A more practical and economic approach could be simply ensuring all reciprocal international exchange agreements are active (not just faculty) and promoted, in addition to school and vocational sectors. Further, Australian students who take up exchanges could be funded with a stipend to cover airfare and basic living costs, depending upon cost of living at destination. Then excess funds can be used for more independent study abroad scholarships.