“A tripartite approach involving business and NGOs, governments, and universities that encourages under-graduate students, not only to study in the Asia-Pacific region but undertake an internship with business or NGOs in the host country, is a very practical demonstration of Australia’s commitment to the region” said Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia.
“Australian universities have been trail-blazers in integrating Australia into the Asia-Pacific region through the provision of higher education to international students, staff and student exchanges, research collaboration and transnational education.
“The New Colombo Plan will build on this track-record by providing further encouragement and incentives for Australian students to incorporate a comprehensive Asia-Pacific study experience within their undergraduate degree program.
“This will not only benefit the student but will demonstrate Australia’s commitment and help to cement Australia’s place within the fastest growing region in the world.
“This is smart economic policy, smart foreign policy and smart higher education policy. In the last five years alone, we have doubled the number of students who’ve travelled overseas for study.
“While this means that 13 per cent of undergraduates will have an international study experience over the course of their degree, this number needs to increase if we are to make meaningful headway in improving Australia’s Asian capability. This programme represents a much needed turbo-charge.”
Ms Robinson said that the inclusion of an internship component in the program adds necessary depth to the programme that will position students well with future employers on their return to Australia.
“It is valuable for students to be able to connect with business as well as their peers while offshore; to gain the specific business insights and international competencies that will stand them in good stead in their future careers, whether they be in Australia, our region or across the globe,” Ms Robinson said.
The policy gives life to the Coalition’s acknowledgement in its Real Solutions document of the need for such a plan to develop “the important people to people links and the leadership relationships of the future.” (p25)
It is also consistent with Universities Australia’s major Agenda for Australian Higher Education 2013-2016, A Smarter Australia, released earlier this year which advocates:
“Maintaining and enhancing Australia’s global position as a provider of higher education to both Australian and international students, and as a leading research provider in an increasingly competitive environment, must be the foundation objective of all future governments if the potential of the Australian university sector’s contribution to national wellbeing is to be fully realised.” (p9)
“Should the Coalition win government, Universities Australia looks forward to working with the Coalition to implement this important policy proposal,” Ms Robinson said.