ASEAN-Australia Special Summit results in new opportunities for student exchange
Leaders' Welcome and Family Photo at the one-off summit of 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sydney, Australia, March 17, 2018. Source: Reuters/David Gray

Around 1 in 5 international students in Australia comes from the 10-member states of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This figure may be set to increase even further, with new education initiatives announced by Australia’s government to coincide with the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit held in Sydney over the weekend.

Building on the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan, which provides scholarships for Australian undergraduate students to study and undertake internships in countries across the Asia-Pacific, the initiatives aim to provide even greater opportunities for exchange between ASEAN and Australian students.

“Over time, the Australian Government wants to see study in the Indo-Pacific region become a rite of passage for Australian undergraduate students,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says of the New Colombo Plan.

The newly announced initiatives meanwhile aim to provide “ways to deepen the engagement between the future leaders of Australia and the ASEAN region,” said a statement from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

“Australia is committed to practical and meaningful partnerships with the ASEAN region,” it said. “These initiatives will build on our flagship education programs and enable talented ASEAN and Australian emerging leaders to learn from each other to shape a positive future.”

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia (C) pose with Indonesian and Australian students during the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. Source: Twitter / @KSPgoid

New Colombo Plan ASEAN Fellow initiative

The New Colombo Plan ASEAN Fellow initiative provides the opportunity for Australian undergraduates to study and undertake work-based experiences specifically in the ASEAN region. Hayley Winchcombe from the University of Western Australia was announced as the very first New Colombo Plan ASEAN Fellow. She will study at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and work with organisations that promote ASEAN interests in Singapore and Indonesia.

Australia Awards ASEAN Scholarships

The ministers also announced the new Australia Awards ASEAN Scholarships, which will provide masters degrees to 50 students from ASEAN member states in 2019. The program is focused on boosting ASEAN’s political security and peace, economic sustainability, and social development across the region. Australia’s government said the program would “build the skills of the next generation of leaders to contribute to the security and prosperity of the region while enhancing cooperation and partnership between Australia and ASEAN.”

ASEAN-Australia Infrastructure Skills Dialogue

The ASEAN-Australia Infrastructure Skills Dialogue is aimed at providing the necessary education and training to manage the region’s rapidly growing cities. Australia’s government said the initiative would “bring together ASEAN and Australian industry, government, and vocational education and training representatives, to discuss skills challenges facing the region and best practice in engaging industry in skills development.”

Australia now

Australia now is an existing program which is a “a celebration of Australia delivered annually in a country or region of strategic significance” for the purpose of “building relationships for the future”. In 2018 it is taking place in Japan. The Australian Government announced over the weekend that in 2019, Australia now will be delivered in the ASEAN region with an emphasis on youth dialogue, exchange and girls empowerment.

The flag of ASEAN (top) and its 10 member states. Source: Shutterstock

“Australia is an increasingly popular choice for ASEAN students seeking a world-class education. Close to 100,000 students from ASEAN countries studied in Australia in 2016, making up a total of 19 percent of all international students here,” Professor Ian Jacobs of the University of New South Wales in Sydney noted in a recent opinion piece in The Australian newspaper.

“We have unprecedented demand from ASEAN countries as Australia is increasingly recognised as a strategic partner, not just for trade and regional stability, but for ­social, cultural and knowledge-sharing reasons.”

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