Building networks through education

Bishop said the friendships and connections gained through the New Colombo Plan will pay dividends for both countries in decades. — Sunpix by Asyraf Rasid
Bishop (C) with the Australia Awards ASEAN Scholarships recipients (from left) Mun Hon, Rashidah, Aizat and Jie Shuang. — Sunpix by Asyraf Rasid
Bishop (R) answering some of the questions by students with Monash University Malaysia president and pro-vice-chancellor Prof Andrew Walker. — Sunpix by Asyraf Rasid

IN this region, Australia enjoys a long tradition in supporting the exchange of people, culture and ideas through education. Recently, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Honourable Julie Bishop, was in Kuala Lumpur to meet with senior government, business and education leaders.

The minister's itinerary included a stop at Monash University Malaysia, where she delivered a public address to mark the university's 20th anniversary in Malaysia. In her speech, she highlighted the fact that Monash University Malaysia is Malaysia's first foreign university campus and it is also Monash University's first campus abroad.

"This showcases the high quality and high standards that Monash University achieves. It has been a remarkable success in embedding a world-class Australian university within the Malaysian community," she said.

One of the most powerful aspects of the relationship between Australia and Malaysia is the educational exchanges. Australian universities have in total 11 campuses overseas with three located in Malaysia – Monash University Malaysia, Swinburne University of Technology and Curtin University.

"Investing in education means Malaysia has a highly skilled workforce with the ability to fuel the next generation of growth, innovation and economy. Australia welcomes and encourages the new government's focus on education. We see many potential areas for cooperation, such as the Australian government's signature policy, the New Colombo Plan," stated Bishop.

The initial Colombo Plan which was set up in the 1950s brought nearly 4,000 Malaysian students to Australia to gain Australian university qualifications. Today, 400,000 Malaysians are reported to have studied in Australia; 32,000 enrolments alone, last year.

Under the New Colombo Plan, an estimated 2,500 Australian students would have participated in the plan's Mobility and Scholarship programmes in Malaysia by the end of 2019. That includes 840 students from Australia studying in Malaysia this year, which makes Malaysia the fifth most popular New Colombo Plan host location out of 39 participating nations across the Indo-Pacific region.

"Since its inception in 2014 up until 2019, around 40,000 Australian undergraduates will have lived, studied and undertaken work experience, internships and practicum in countries in that region. The friendships and connections these and other New Colombo Plan participants gain through this programme will pay dividends for both countries across the decades.

"It is hard to conceive a better investment for the future than preparing our next generation of leaders with a great understanding of their region (where they will gain) experiences that give new skills, insights, understanding, connections, as well as networks that will last a lifetime," she highlighted.

Australia awards ASEAN Scholarships

On that note, the Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Andrew Goledzinowski revealed the names of the five Malaysian recipients awarded the Asean Scholarships - Yeoh Jie Shuang, Aizat Shamsuddin, Rashidah Kamaluddin, Kah Mun Hon and Karl Nadzarin.

• Jie Shuang – Masters of Architecture at the University of Melbourne to develop herself further in providing sustainable design solutions.

• Aizat – Masters of International Law and International Relations at the University of New South Wales. His study will focus on human rights and the prevention of violent extremism in Muslim-majority countries.

• Rashidah – Masters of Planning at the University of Tasmania. She intends to use urban planning principles to contribute to the sustainable development of natural resources in her home state of Sabah.

• Mun Hon – Master of Development Studies at the University of Melbourne. Thanks for the care and support of her Australian foster family, she completed her tertiary studies and is now working as a journalist.

• Karl – Masters of Law at The University of Melbourne. He aims to use his newly acquired skills and knowledge to make a positive contribution to the institutional reform agenda of the Malaysian government.

Briefly, the prestigious scholarship transpired from the first and historic Asean-Australia Special Summit, which was held in Sydney in March this year, where leaders of Asean nations were hosted by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The scholarship offered 50 outstanding young students, five from each Asean country, the opportunity to attain their Masters at universities in Australia in fields that contribute to the Asean agenda which addresses peace, prosperity and social development.