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Australia’s New Colombo Plan launches in Japan

On a trade mission to Asia this week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott rolled out the government’s outbound mobility programme, the New Colombo Plan (NCP), to Japan as part of the programme’s four nation trial scheme.

The pilot programme will provide 700 study abroad and internship places across Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan.

During the trip, Japan and Australia also signed a landmark free trade agreement that will strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

The deal, which Abbott described as “historic”, follows seven years of negotiations and will be finalised when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Australia later in the year.

“Australia has much to offer the world; but much to learn, as well – especially from Asia,” Abbott said in a statement.

“Australia has much to offer the world; but much to learn, as well – especially from Asia”

He added that “over time, this will be a true two-way New Colombo Plan which takes Australian university students to Asian universities to learn more about our region and brings the best and brightest talent from the region to Australia.”

Universities Australia‘s Chief Executive Belinda Robinson also travelling on the trade delegation, welcomed the drive to build closer bilateral relations, saying that universities “appreciate the high level support for closer higher education ties with Japan”.

“Just as Australia has the New Colombo Plan to encourage Australians to study in Japan, so the Japanese government has tripled funding for study abroad,” she said. “Australian universities are well placed to attract greater numbers of Japanese students.”

Japan has already accepted around 50 Australian students through the New Colombo Plan, with Kyoto University, Waseda University, and Sophia University among nearly 40 participating institutions.

The initiative will complement Japan’s goal of more than doubling the number of overseas international students coming into the country, from 135,000 as of last May to 300,000 by 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics.

Japan’s education minister Hakubun Shimomura said that “Japan sees [the NCP] as a valuable programme that will foster people who can act as a bridge between the two countries.”

Abott’s newly elected government has dedicated AUS$100 million to the project over the next five years to increase study abroad in the Indo-Pacific region.

The pilot programme will provide 700 study abroad and internship places across Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. Further locations are set to be introduced in 2015.

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