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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 8631

Asia-Bound Grant Program


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:07): My question is to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the Gillard government is supporting more Australian students to have a study experience in Asia?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:07): I thank Senator Bilyk for her question. In the Asian century, the government believes that a study experience in Asia is the best way for young Australians to become Asia-literate. Australia's future engagement with Asia is essential to ensure our future economic prosperity. There is no better way to engage our young people with Asia than to encourage them to study abroad in Asia and get that firsthand experience.

We have a great record of educating people from Asia in Australia, with more than two million Asian students being educated here in the last 10 years, but what we have not been good at is the two-way exchange. We have not had nearly enough Australians travelling to Asia to study and to experience life in Asia. We have had a situation where students have continued to go to the traditional destinations, if you like, of the UK, Europe and the United States of America. So the government sought to substantially redesign its support for an overseas study experience and focus very much on Asia.

The new $37 million Asia-Bound Grant program will see more than 10,000 extra students travel to Asia to study. It will provide grants of between $2,000 and $5,000 to students to undertake short or semester-length study programs. It will also support language study. We will also change the guidelines for the OS-HELP Loan Scheme to provide greater flexibility. We have to change the focus of our students from Europe and the United States to Asia. We have to give them that sort of experience. It is part of the cultural shift that has to occur in Australia. These are our future leaders, our professionals, our business people. Giving them a grounding in Asia, giving them an understanding and giving them an experience are vital for us achieving the economic growth we are after. (Time expired)


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the government is supporting students to get language training for their study experience in Asia?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): We know that Australia has a low take-up of foreign languages—this is historical—particularly Asian languages. That is why we announced at the launch of the Asian century white paper that the Australian government would ensure more school students have access to Asian languages. Often barriers to our university students travelling to Asia are their lack of language skills and their concerns about how they would fare. Even some language training at a colloquial level would assist students to visit and study in Asia. We know many Asian universities now offer courses in English. What we have to do is make it easier and more attractive for students and support them. The $1,000 Asia-bound language grants are our contribution to that improved OS-HELP Loan Scheme. We want a three-way commitment—the government, the universities and the students—to support some language training which will encourage that sort of mobility to study in Asia. (Time expired)


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister also advise the Senate on how the government will work with Australian universities to increase the number of students studying in Asia?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): We all know that an overseas study experience can change people's lives and provide a real experience that informs their professional development. That is why the study experience in Asia program is so important, but we have to get the universities working as part of that. Some of them do great work already. Some of them have some really exciting programs. We have to support them to grow those programs and also make sure that there is diversity. It is not about the government telling them which programs work; it is about encouraging universities to run programs that students are interested in and that deliver on the educational objectives. What we will do with the universities is support those programs and support the students. I do not care whether it is nurses getting practical experience in Indonesia, design students getting work experience in Hong Kong or engineers working on water projects. It is about giving them the exposure that helps them grow their understanding of Asia. (Time expired)