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What connects India with Australia? The New Colombo Plan

What goes around comes around, sooner or later. Time has come for India to ensure a consistent flow of students in return for its thousands who have left for Australian universities since the international cooperation between the two countries started in 1950, with the ‘Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific'. Sixty-five years later, the ‘New Colombo Plan’ (NCP) launched by the Australian Government marks a watershed in student mobility flows, as from 2015 there will be hundreds of Australian undergraduates and interns who will be able to go to India for a period of study, internship or research. Today, India is the second largest source of international students for Australia, with more than 30 000 students receiving visas in 2013-14.

The ambitious NCP will complement the Indian Government’s ‘Connect to India’ initiative which funds five Indian universities to each host at least 30 international students. In the last two years the educational ties between the two countries have become more and more tight with the emergence of 100 new Australian-Indian university partnerships. To further strengthen the relations, last September a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Technical Vocational Education and Training has been signed between the National Skills Development Corporation of India and the Australian Department of Industry. 

The main aim of the new Colombo Plan is to give Australian students more skills that will make them ready for the labour market, and to confer them a broader awareness of the Asian reality as well as professional connections in the region. India is only one of the 35 participating countries. A 2014 pilot phase is preliminary testing the ground with around 1300 mobility program students and 40 scholarship holders to study in four pilot locations – Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Based on the success of the pilot, the New Colombo Plan will be more widely implemented across the Indo-Pacific from 2015 to include more than 30 host locations, among which India, will support approximately 60 scholarships and provide around AUD 8 million in mobility grants for Australian undergraduate students aged 18-28.