Hong Kong's Education Secretary, Eddie Ng, and Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, emphasised the importance of education links to strengthening the broader Hong Kong-Australia relationship at a meeting in Hong Kong on 19 October.
Ms Bishop and Mr Ng discussed the close education ties which exist between Hong Kong and Australia and the opportunity to deepen these through the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan initiative. The initiative aims to lift knowledge of the Asia Pacific in Australia and strengthen people-to-people and institutional relationships through study and internships undertaken by Australian undergraduate students in the region.
Mr Ng welcomed Ms Bishop's invitation for Hong Kong to participate in the pilot phase of the New Colombo Plan, which he said "provided an excellent opportunity to boost the number of Australians studying in Hong Kong and raise Hong Kong's profile in Australia".
Ms Bishop noted that Hong Kong enjoys a growing profile as an international education hub. She said "Australian students will benefit from the opportunity to study at Hong Kong's world-class institutions and the "East Meets West" culture. With thousands of Hong Kong students enrolled in Australian institutions each year, the New Colombo Plan will further enhance two-way student mobility through educational exchange".
The New Colombo Plan, consisting of new funding of AUD100 million (about HK$740 million) over five years, will commence in 2015, after a pilot phase in 2014. In addition to Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan have been invited to participate in the pilot phase. Other regional partners will be invited to join the program from 2015.
"We share the common vision of widening students' horizons and nurturing leaders with global perspectives and abilities to thrive in a multi-cultural environment. To this end, Hong Kong has been actively promoting student exchange. With about 4 400 incoming and 4 200 outgoing students on exchange in our public institutions last year, about one out of four of our undergraduate students already have the opportunity to spend a semester or so to broaden exposure outside Hong Kong" said Mr Ng.
The HKSAR Government introduced the Reaching Out Awards in 2012 for meritorious post-secondary students to participate in learning programmes, as well as events and competitions outside Hong Kong. We estimate that the Award Scheme will benefit around 5 000 every year upon full implementation.
Mr Ng and Ms Bishop agreed that Hong Kong and Australia would work closely to ensure the early and successful implementation of the initiative, and actively explore other opportunities for enhancing education cooperation between the two places.
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