The New Colombo Plan: Transforming Australian Higher Education's Outward Mobility Programs?

The New Colombo Plan: Transforming Australian Higher Education's Outward Mobility Programs?

Mila Arden (Victoria University, Australia) and Matthew Piscioneri (Monash University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3451-8.ch006

Abstract

The study is mainly based on a critical literature review as well as analysis of publicly available materials on the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan (NCP). The authors argue that the existing normative frames on outward student mobility (OSM), as reviewed through analysis of the Australian Government's NCP policy and the relevant literature, tend towards an unhelpful polarization that encourages a discourse. It is often fused with ideological elements imposed by institutional, government, corporate, and scholarly sources. It is difficult to locate literature which assesses the participating outward-bound students' voices and aspirations without prejudice. Thus, the existing normative frames covering OSM in Australian higher education require revision.
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Introduction

Tertiary education we suggest, as a form of higher education, inherently implies notions of positive transformation for individuals as well as contributing to progressive social, regional, and even global change (Patel, Li, & Piscioneri, 2014). One aspect of higher education that has been historically accorded a type of progressive moral mission, is that of outward student mobility [OSM]. The OSM contributed to not only individuals’ positive transformation but also society’s development on the local, regional and even global levels. Outbound and outward student mobility are used interchangeably throughout this article. Australian tertiary students’ international experience (e.g., outward bound mobility on exchange) has, arguably, been accorded a marginal position in the discourse of internationalization of Australian higher education. Some notable exceptions include Nunan (2006), Bell (2008), Crossman & Clark (2010), Forsey, Broomhall, and Davis (2012) and Dall’Alba & Sindhu (2015). Leask (2001) and Rizvi (2011) suggested outward-bound as well as inward-bound student mobility has played a significant role in positive processes of internationalizing higher education, in Australia and globally. Overall, a range of strategies has been used to encourage Australian students to become mobile:

In making their arguments for mobility schemes, known variously as Study Abroad or Exchange programmes, university researchers and administrators have portrayed student mobility as a vital dimension of higher education’s internationalisation and a crucial institutional response to the imperatives of ‘globalisation’ and regionalisation. (Dall’Alba & Sindhu, 2015, p. 721)

Bell (2008, p. 130) noted that only a very small number of Australian tertiary students historically have studied abroad: “In 2003 less than 1% of Australian students were travelling abroad for study”. Yet Australian tertiary institutional supported for OSM remains strong (for example: Monash University, 2017; University of Melbourne, 2017; University of Queensland, 2017), and the number of Australian tertiary level students participating in outward mobility programs has steadily increased in the last decade. Universities Australia reported that “the data revealed that student mobility is continuing to grow. In 2012, there was a total 24,866 overseas study experiences undertaken by Australian university students” (Universities Australia, 2013).

Before the 2013 Australian Federal election, both major Australian political groupings outlined competing but equally substantial commitments to this feature of higher education: the Asia-Bound Grants program introduced by the ALP in July 2013 (AEI, 2013) and the New Colombo Plan proposed by the Liberal-National Party (Australianpolitics, 2013). Following the 2013 Australian Federal Election, the successful Liberal-National Party launched its flagship Outward Student Mobility (OSM) program: the New Colombo Plan (NCP). The initiative provides the authors with the opportunity to examine the prevailing norms and values which the Australian Government prioritises in terms of outward-bound student mobility.

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