The New Colombo Plan: building regional engagement and enhancing learning opportunities for Australian students

Media release

27 February 2014

In an address to the Universities Australia Higher Education Conference in Canberra today, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Brett Mason underlined the importance of the Government's New Colombo Plan (NCP) in building broader and deeper institutional and people-to-people connections with our Indo-Pacific neighbours and in enhancing the skills, knowledge and cultural understanding of Australian students.

"The opportunities under the NCP for Australian undergraduates to study throughout the region will create closer ties with our neighbours across business, government, education and cultural endeavours," Senator Mason told conference delegates.

"And the skills that our students will acquire from their participation in the NCP, including mentoring and internship opportunities, will help to ensure that they are work-ready, have professional connections in the region and can link their study experiences directly to their future careers."

Senator Mason emphasised that Australian universities are crucial partners for the Government in the implementation of the NCP. The key tasks for universities will be to expand their partnerships with higher education institutions in the Indo-Pacific and to develop innovative new regional study programs for course credit for Australian students.

"A diverse network of regional university partnerships will support the scale of student exchanges anticipated under the NCP and will help achieve enduring linkages with our neighbours," said Senator Mason.

In his address, Senator Mason also highlighted the need for universities, the business sector and the Government to continue to actively promote the NCP to students to build student interest in study opportunities in the Indo-Pacific.

"We need to change the mindset of Australian students to embrace study in our region as an integral component of their overall learning experience," Senator Mason said.

Mobility funding offers made to 24 universities this month will support over 300 student experiences in the four NCP pilot destinations – Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia – in Semester 1, 2014. A second round of mobility grants will be awarded to universities later in the year, along with the announcement of the recipients of prestigious NCP scholarships.

The wider roll-out of the NCP across the Indo-Pacific region will take place from 2015.

"Through $100 million in funding for the NCP, the Government is supporting learning opportunities for Australian students in our region and encouraging the development of close partnerships between governments, universities and business," Senator Mason said.

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