A great partnership

Australia Education Minister Dan Tehan lauds ties with Malaysia in education and research. -NSTP/Saifullizan Tamadi

With a strong history of educational links between Australia and Malaysia, it came as no surprise that Australia Education Minister Dan Tehan chose Malaysia as his first international official visit since he took office in August last year.

“Malaysia is an important partner when it comes to education and I wanted to come to Malaysia given the rich history that we have between the two countries,” Tehan said.

The Colombo Plan saw over 20,000 talented young students from around the Asia Pacific region, including Malaysia, studying in Australia from the 1950s to the mid-1980s.

Tehan was appointed as Education Minister in August last year following the succession of Malcom Turnbull as Prime Minister of Australia. Prior to this appointment, Tehan served as Social Services Minister.

He was described by The Sydney Morning Herald as a person with a reputation of “a likeable and reliable fixer” that led to his installment in the education portfolio.

He remained as Education Minister under Prime Minister Scott Morrison following the 2019 Australian federal election in May this year.

During the visit, Tehan attended the inauguration of University of Wollongong (UOW) Malaysia KDU campus.

He also delivered an address at University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) as part of the university’s Global Talk Series and visited research facilities at Monash University Malaysia.

“More than 23,500 Malaysian students are currently studying in Australia and our universities are working together on world-leading research that will make a difference in both countries.

“Our new Colombo Plan provides incentives and support for Australian students to study in Malaysia. We also have 7,500 Australian students who have come to Malaysia over the last decade to study here.

“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed while in Malaysia has been exploring the policies that we have in Australia and exchanging views about what happens here in Malaysia.

“This visit has been quite extraordinary because everywhere I go, I would bump into someone who has studied in Australia or their children have studied in Australia. It creates warmth between our two nations,” said Tehan.

In an exclusive interview with Higher Ed, Tehan shared details of the new offerings for international students to study in Australia and his take on the importance of partnerships between both countries in education and research.

WITH the international education sector being Australian’s fourth biggest export earner amounting to around A$37 billion (RM105 billion), Tehan stressed that Australia wants to continue to welcome international students.

Malaysian engineering students studying at the University of Queensland, Australia.

“We have 39 universities in Australia and all of them are high-class universities. Besides that, students’ satisfaction rate with their experience of studying in Australia is in the high 90s.”

However, he said there has been some focus towards Melbourne and Sydney as the traditional destinations when there are various other programmes for international students to study across the nation.

“We want to make sure that international students also look into other parts of Australia that are extremely welcoming for them to study at as well.”

He added that the government is keen to ensure that students consider other parts of Australia like Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns or Hobart.

“We want students to go to every part of our great nation to visit and study. For instance, I represent a rural electorate. And Deakin University has a campus in Warrnambool, near the Great Ocean Road.”

He said they are also providing incentives through scholarships for students to study in Australia including work rights.

“Our Destination Australia programme is a scholarship that will support the study and living expenses associated with studying a qualification at a regional campus of an eligible tertiary education provider.

“We’re using an incentive programme so that we’ll get a better dispersal for our international students market. Through this, you’ll get A$15,000 (RM42,000) to come and stay in Australia.”

He said the government also offers post-study work rights that allow a two-year ability to work in Australia after finishing one’s degree.

“Students appreciate the ability not only to study but also to work. The experience from working and studying here puts you in a very

good state for employment opportunities when you return home. It’s one of the reasons why the international education market in Australia continues to grow.

“If you come and study in Australia, you can stay for an additional two years, and in some cases three to four years to work in Australia post higher education.

“Additionally, if you study in regional and rural parts of Australia, you’ll get a greater ability to stay afterwards when you finish your degree to work.

He added that they are also looking at getting graduate apprenticeship — of students spending a year or six months in an industry or business — as part of the degree programme and student experience.


Tehan pointed out that roughly 23 per cent of Australia’s international student market is offshore investment by their universities in other countries formed by two-way partnerships.

“Partnerships will enable us to continue to

grow our education cooperation with other countries,” he said, adding that the recent launch between UOW and KDU is a successful partnership that the Australian government is looking to encourage.

“I was pleased to launch a new partnership of an Australian university that will be cementing its relationship in Malaysia to provide higher education.

“UOW has a very different approach to international education than other universities as they believe in investing offshore to grow their business.

Australia Education Minister Dan Tehan.

“UOW has a campus in Malaysia now, and also in Hong Kong and Dubai as well as many parts of Australia. If you’re a young student you have an opportunity as part of your degree to study

in Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Dubai. I believe this would be a wonderful opportunity with the possibility of studying at three different campuses.”

He said in any strategic partnerships, the agreement should benefit both countries.

“For a two-way partnership to work, it has to be beneficial for two countries. It has to work in Australia’s interest and it has to work in Malaysia’s interest. If we can do that, we will guarantee success.

Tehan added with Malaysia hosting APEC next year there is potential to look further into initiatives in the tertiary education space.

“I’ve deliberately come to Malaysia as I feel there’s a lot of work that we can continue to build on.

“It is also my hope that over time, Australian students studying in Malaysia will also be able to enjoy some of the benefits that Malaysian students enjoy in Australia because that two-way approach to the exchange of students is important,” he said.


Besides partnerships between universities, Tehan said that Australia is also keen on developing the relationship between industries, business and the university sector further.

“Research in Australia continues to grow. And the government continues to invest in research in Australia because it’s so important for our future economic growth. There are many things that we are exploring to continue to expand the research budget in Australia.

“The more we can grow that partnership, the more we can grow our research budget.”

Tehan said in expanding collaborations and ideas, it is also important that there is a greater interchange of PhD students moving between higher education sector along with industries and business.

The recently launched University of Wollongong Malaysia KDU campus in Damansara Jaya.

“If you’re a Malaysian student, looking to do post-doctoral work or doctoral work, I would highly recommend going to Australia. Right across the board, we offer excellent educational experiences.

“We’re very fortunate in Australia that we have research occurring right across many fields. Our international ranking means that we are highly and widely regarded across the board in what we do, from humanities to science and the medical sphere.

“I’m very confident that there is no problem that we can’t solve if we put the money into the research that we make to solve the world’s problems. Whether it be climate change or unused plastics or lifting people from poverty.”

Tehan said that all these issues will be solved through education and so it is fundamental to what a country does as a nation.

“During my meeting with Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali earlier, we discussed about getting greater research collaboration in agriculture, how we can continue to grow vocational education and how we can build on the research relationship in technology.

“We want to see the research relationship to continue to develop between Malaysia and Australia.”

By Hazlina Aziz.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2019/12/548903/great-partnership

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