Expert input at policy roundtable on New Colombo Plan

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Expert input at policy roundtable on New Colombo Plan

The Menzies Research Centre today hosted 170 participants from higher education, business, NGOs, and other organisations - and diplomatic representatives from many countries - at a policy development roundtable at Parliament House, Canberra, on the Coalition's proposed New Colombo Plan.

The New Colombo Plan is an initiative to encourage Australian students to undertake study in universities in the Asia-Pacific region. It is intended to combine this wherever possible with internships in business, NGOs or other organisations working in the region.

The New Colombo Plan will be a signature initiative in foreign and higher education policy for a future Coalition government.

In welcoming participants, the Chair of the Menzies Research Centre, Mr Tom Harley, spoke of the importance of consultation (such as today’s roundtable) in the policy-making process on which good public policy depends.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, said that the hope was to develop a program that would exist, if possible, 'in perpetuity', and to make it a 'rite of passage' for talented young Australians to study in the region.

To read Ms Bishop's speech click here.

The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, spoke of the importance of developing people-to-people relations between Australia and our regional neighbours, and said that the New Colombo Plan must combine a program for a large number of students with an elite component.

To read Mr Abbott's speech click here.

The Shadow Minister for Universities and Research, Senator the Hon Brett Mason, spoke of the Plan helping to develop young Australians who would combine cultural understanding with being 'career-ready'. To read Senator Mason's speech click here.

Watch a broadcast of the opening session, including speeches by Menzies Research Centre Executive Director Professor Don Markwell, Tom Harley, Julie Bishop, Tony Abbott and Brett Mason, here.

After Ms Bishop, Mr Abbott and Senator Mason had set the scene, the participants worked in small groups discussing key questions on which the Menzies Research Centre, on behalf of the Coalition, sought their expert input. These questions were:

  1. How will we best encourage Australian undergraduate students to study in the region's universities? What will be necessary to make this option more attractive to Australian students? What obstacles will need to be overcome, and how?
  2. How might an internship or mentoring arrangement in a business or other organisation operating in the region be structured to encourage Australian students to study in the region, and benefit the students and businesses/organisations?
  3. What needs to be done by way of:

a. capacity building

b. course accreditation and quality assurance

c. visa arrangements

d. scholarship and student loans

e. student accommodation, personal security, medical care, pastoral care, and any other aspects of student support

f. the balance between government and university promotional efforts, and

g. other aspects of the Plan?

4. How do we best promote and support the study of Asian languages in Australian schools and universities?

5. How best to promote alumni relationships involving Australians who have studied in the region and people from the region who have studied in Australia?

6. How would pilot/trial programs for the New Colombo Plan best be undertaken?

Informed and insightful answers to these and related issues were presented from each discussion group to a plenary session facilitated by the Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre, Professor Don Markwell, and were warmly welcomed by Ms Bishop in her closing remarks.

It was announced that companies such as ANZ, Fortescue Metals Group and the Lippo Group in Indonesia had committed to offering internships under the New Colombo Plan.

Invaluable input from the day will be used by a steering group which will be formed to carry forward the more detailed development of the New Colombo Plan policy.

A prominent Australian will soon be announced to chair the steering group. Nominations and expressions of interest to become a member of the steering group are now open.

Anyone wishing to offer suggestions on the New Colombo Plan, or for membership of the steering group, is invited to email their ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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