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Australia seeks deeper engagement in Asia in the short and medium term

The Australian government recently released a new policy document outlining a set of very ambitious goals to be pursued by the country within the Asian region, by 2025. Entitled Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, the strategy’s overall aim is to make Australia a strong competitor in Asia, from areas like trade and economic cooperation to education. The paper sets some very interesting objectives in the field of higher education, amongst other sectors. The objectives include having 10 Australian universities in the world’s top 100 (from about 5 currently, depending on the ranking consulted) and making Asian studies part of the curriculum. This is to be done already at the school level, when all pupils will have, the paper underlines, priority access to main Asian languages such as Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian or Japanese. As it is already widely known, Australia is one of the main countries of destination for Asian students. Building on this reality, the strategy aims to promote the flow of students in the other direction as well, finding it essential that future Australian leaders have “first-hand” knowledge of the Asian continent.

This gets us to one of the very few concrete initiatives that were announced to date as instruments that will help Australia reach the ambitious targets set in the White Paper. The new AsiaBound Grants Program will support more than 10 000 Australian students to study in Asia for short-term periods. Worth a total of AUD 37 million (approx.  EUR 30 million), the programme will offer student grants of between AUD 2 000 (approx. EUR 1 600) and AUD 5 000 (approx. EUR 4 000) to study in Asia. The eligibility criteria will also be relaxed, says the Minister of Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, to allow not only pure study abroad (i.e. enrolment at another higher education institution), but also placements and other types of programmes that are relevant towards the students’ degrees at home. In parallel, the OS-HELP loan scheme that allows for study abroad will be extended. The maximum loan amount students can take to study in Asia will increase by AUD 1 250 (approx. EUR 1 000), i.e. reaching AUD 7 500 (approx. EUR 6 000) by 2014. Students will have access to an additional loan of AUD 1 000 (approx. EUR 800) for intensive language training prior to departure.

Australia in the Asian Century White Paper Australian Government