Launched in December last year, the Government’s $100m New Colombo Plan (NCP) initiative is already making strong progress against its main aim of getting more Australian undergraduates studying in the region.
More than 300 students from 24 Australian universities have begun heading off to the region under the first tranche of mobility program funding, in this the pilot year of the program. In fact some groups have already completed their programs and returned to their Australian universities. Groups like the 11 media production students from the University of Western Australia who undertook an intensive course in television and video production at Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic.
The pilot year includes four destinations: Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong. A region-wide roll-out will begin from 2015 onwards.
And with a second round of mobility funding soon to be announced, a constant and growing stream of students heading off on their NCP experience is ensured.
Providing $100 million in new funding over five years, the NCP is designed to provide maximum flexibility to universities to design and implement innovative mobility programs for their students, ranging from semester-based and short-term study to teaching practicums, research, field studies and clinical placements.
Jack Baker is a great example of the versatility of the NCP. Jack in the final year of a Bachelor of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at the University of South Australia and is undertaking a five month internship at Japan Display Inc in Mobara City in Japan. His Japan experience will provide the basis for his final year project on the use of robotics, automation and efficiencies in the manufacturing process.
Internships are a hallmark of the NCP. In addition to contributing to a student’s academic qualification, they offer students the chance to test their skills in real-life situations, gain insight into an organisation and build professional networks. In return it provides an avenue for businesses and NGOs to engage with promising students, and for other staff to have exposure to a native English speaker and to learn about Australia and its people.
The NCP is not just about mobility grants, the program also supports individual scholarships of up to $67,000 for one to two semesters. Applications for the 2014 scholarship program have now closed with successful applicants announced in June.
In 2015 the New Colombo Plan will be rolled out more broadly across the Indo-Pacific region. Applications from students will be called for later this year. In the months ahead, DFAT’s New Colombo Plan Secretariat will continue to work with universities, businesses and other stakeholders in a range of areas including the development of the NCP alumni program and on approaches to New Colombo Plan internship and mentorship activities.
The Secretariat would be keen to hear from AIIA members in relation to mentoring and internship collaboration.
Mark Darby is a DFAT Officer involved in the Colombo Plan. For more information about the program please visit the DFAT website