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Overseas students programmes

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NEWS RELEASE NO. 6th June, 1971·



"I regret the fact that one recent critic at least has failed

to recognise the major achievements of Australian overseas student ·

programmes in the last 25 years» Under these programmes, some 40,000

students, including 11,000 scholarship students, from the developing

countries of Asia, Africa and the Pacific have studied in Australia and

have returned, many to occupy positions of importance in their own

countries» These young men and women have not only acquired skills

unavailable in their own countries, but have learnt to understand

Australia and have brought us an understanding of them. Australia has

become the country to which many of the leaders of Asian countries turn

for the education of their sons» Australian graduates have become

members of Parliament, Departmental heads, Ambassadors, and leaders in

their own professions. The assistance given by Australia in this way was

recently acknowledged by the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Pote

Sarasin, at the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee meeting in Manila.

Asian students. Australian overseas student programmes are geared to

respond to the particular individual needs of each of the developing

countries, not to fulfil a theoretical role devised by Australia for

Asia. Malaysia, for example, looks to Australia for undergraduate

training and has adopted a deliberate policy of restraining post­

graduate study abroad until such time as its primary needs for graduates

is met. Thailand seeks the education in Australia of your:g undergraduates

destined to become lecturers in an expanding programme of university

development at home. India and Korea, on the other hand, seek postgraduate

training in Australia, since their own institutions are able to meet the

demand for graduate studies. Other countries depend upon us for practical

training, which forms a large part of odr overseas student programmes.

It is not possible to generalise about the needs of Asia and


Sponsored students under the Colombo Plan and other Australia

technical co-operation programmes for the Pacific and Africa are selected

by their own governments for courses that will equip them for positions

associated with national economic development plans. Private students

are admitted to Australia only for courses specifically assessed to be

of value to the country concerned. We do not accept students who are

able to obtain entry to similar courses in their own country pr whose

proposed course of studies can not be used in their homelands»

About 19 per cent of the 11,000 overseas students at present

in Australia are studying engineering. The basic professional qualific­

ations they acquire will be directly relevant to the practise of their

profession. This applies equally to the other professions. The

adaptation of professional training to varying national conditions can

best be done in the students' own countries.

The flexibility of our response to differing national needs

of the developing countries is a feature of Australian aid programmes.

We will continue to regard the wishes of recipient governments concerning

their own needs as the principal criterion for the aid that we provide.

As the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs reported in the House of

Representatives on 27th April, it is the objective of Australian

technical assistance programmes to contribute to the achievement of self­

reliance in the developing countries. However, in some cases it will not

be possible to attain this goal for many years. Until the developing

countries are able to meet their own educational requirements, I hope

that Australia will continue to be able to offer opportunities for

overseas students to attend our universities, either at their own expense

or with the aid of our scholarships, both in order to contibute to

the development of the skills available in their homelands and to main­

tain the contacts established between the young people in Australia

and our neighbours in South-East Asia, Africa and the Pacific which

have contributed in a quite irreplaceable way to a real understanding' - '

of each other. This does not exclude the provision of aid directly to

national institutions both through expert assistance and the provision

of scholarships tenable in the educational institutions of the

developing countries themselves and in regional institutions within

South-East Asia. Assistance to national institutions, which Mr. Webb

recommends, has long been a part of our aid programmes and will continue

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to be so when required by the governments of the developing countries

themselves. .

Overseas student programmes are reviewed each year through

conferences convened by my Department in consultation with the

Departments of Immigration, Education and Science, Labour and National

Service and Health. In these conferences we join with representatives

of community organisations, and the overseas student bodies and have

invited distinguished experts from the universities, the press and the

representatives of foreign governments stationed in Canberra, to consider

the progress and development of student programmes. From these

conferences many innovations have been introduced and contribute to the

progressive growth and improvement of overseas student activities.

In 1 9 6 9 , overseas students represented only 5»9% of' the total

full-time enrolment in Bachelor degree courses in Australian universities.

This falls short of the 10% quota recommended by the Australian Union

of Students in February 1969·"