Student Mobility as ‘Public Diplomacy’? Examining the New Colombo Plan’s Impact on Deepening Asia-Australia Relations

Associate Professor Ly Tran1, Ms Joanne Barker2, Dr Mark Rahimi3, Ms Elena Williams4, Mr Alam Ikhlas5

1Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, 2RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, 3Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, 4Australia-Indonesia Consulting/ ANU, Melbourne/ Canberra, Australia, 5Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

Chair: Elena Williams


‘Public diplomacy’ initiatives represent a key pillar of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT’s) operations. One of these initiatives is its signature scholarship and grants program for undergraduate students, The New Colombo Plan (NCP). At an investment of almost AUD$200 million and boasting nearly 50,000 alumni since its launch in 2014, the program is hailed as a success by the Australian Government, key university partners and business leaders. While several studies on the NCP have emerged in recent years, further critical inquiry is warranted regarding the NCP’s impact on relationship-building in the region and on students’ lives and career trajectories. Drawing on recent research findings, this panel will examine the role of the NCP in the broader context of Australian Government scholarship schemes; its impact on graduate employability and intercultural capability outcomes; and its assumed suitability as a means of strengthening Australia’s relationships in the region and strengthening ‘public diplomacy’ and ‘people-to-people’ relationships.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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