New Colombo Plan: Australians as international students in Asia and their cross-cultural learning

A/Prof. Ly Tran1

1Deakin University, Vermont, Australia

The latest figure from the Australian University Directors’ Forum, AUIDF, (2016) shows that the number of Australian students participating in learning abroad increased more than six fold over the last 10 years, from 6000 in 2005 to 38,144 in 2015. Almost one out of five Australian students undertook learning abroad during their undergraduate study in 2015 (AUIDF, 2016). The New Colombo Plan program established in 2014 represents the Australian government’s signature initiative of not only student mobility but importantly public diplomacy. This important mobility program has contributed to the recent remarkable growth of Australia’s outbound mobility to Asia, bringing the number of Australian students funded by the NCP to the Indo Pacific to more than 10,000 by 2016. However up to date, there has been insufficient empirical data about the cross-cultural development and other forms of learning Australian students are engaged in Asia through the New Colombo Plan. This paper aims to fill out this critical gap. It draws on empirical data from a research project that includes policy discourse analysis and more than 50 interviews with academics, mobility officers and Australian students undertaking study abroad in Asia. The presentation addresses the diverse forms of learning including intended and incidental learning, authentic, formal and informal learning as well as individual and collective learning in which the New Colombo Plan participants are engaged. Using Bourdieu’s concepts of capital and habitus to interpret Australian students’ learning in Asia, it analyses to what extent Asia as a geographical, social, cultural and educational space can help to transform Australian students’ cross-cultural understanding, their capacity to pursue a meaningful professional life and their potential to act as actors of public diplomacy with regard to Australia’s connection with Asia. The presentation draws on Harvard University’s Visible Thinking Approach to engage the audience in exploring Australian students’ learning and cross-cultural development in Asia via the New Colombo Plan.


Dr Ly Thi Tran is an Associate Professor in the School of Education, Deakin University, Australia. Her research focuses on student mobility including the New Colombo Plan and the teaching, learning and wellbeing of international students across the school, VET and HE sectors. Ly has been awarded three grants on international student mobility and staff professional development in international education from the Australian Research Council. She has published widely in the field of international education and is frequently invited to speak at a wide range of conferences, symposiums and workshops on student mobility and the teaching and learning of international students. Ly’s book, ‘Teaching international students in vocational education: New pedagogical approaches’, won the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) Excellence Award for Best Practice/Innovation in International Education.

International students and the NZ Police: A collaborative safety initiative

Mr Dylan Anderson1

1Victoria University Of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

The New Zealand education sector takes great pride and effort to market itself internationally as a prime education destination. Currently, New Zealand is home to nearly 85,000 international students on student visas, making up 1.7% of the total population. Unfortunately, international students are victims of crime at a rate higher than the general population due to a wide range of factors including: their age; exposure to, and lack of experience with alcohol and drugs; their information and help-seeking behaviour and being a transitory population. Following on from the New Zealand Police initiative “Student for Student” in Auckland, a modified version of this project was launched in Wellington in September 2016 and renamed the “International Student Ambassador” (ISA) project. The goal of the project is to empower students to take control of their personal safety and the safety of their peers by providing them with training to reduce the risk of being a victim of crime. Students from Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, Queen Margaret College, Whitirea Polytechnic, and Weltec are involved in the project. This presentation will discuss the initiative, the positive impact on the Ambassadors and how they have been able to disseminate what they have learnt to the international student body.


Originally from the small town of Homer, Alaska, Dylan graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a BA in Philosophy and Asian Studies. He has been working with international and tertiary students in various roles in the US and New Zealand since 2007. He is currently an International Student Advisor as part of the Victoria International (VI) team at Victoria University of Wellington.

Improving student success through engagement opportunities at Massey University Student Association (MUSA)

Ms Kerry Howe1, Ms Gunhild Litwin2

1MUSA, 2.22b Student Services Building, Massey Manawatu, 4410, , , , 2MUSA, 2.25 Student Services Building, Massey Manawatu, 4410, 

This presentation will describe and analyse the re-building of student engagement with MUSA initiatives and the flow-on effect on personal and professional success. We will discuss the underlying philosophy of emancipating students to find their voice in a climate of users-pay education and the role student associations play in developing an ethics of civics in students. Though only two years in the making, the authors will tell stories of how the re-building of a de-funded student association has invigorated vibrancy on campus, increased the number of volunteers to the student association (MUSA), increased the functionality of clubs and their executives, enabled a better functioning class representative system, and improved personal and professional growth for students. Particularly, the authors will describe and analyse issues that are enabling progress for this process, such as the development of a volunteer system, and the refining of the definition of volunteer for different aspects of student life such as class representation, clubs’ systems and volunteering for the student association. We will report on successful collaborative initiatives within the university as well as on ways of overcoming obstacles. Lastly, we will share success stories of students who have benefited from active participation in the MUSA volunteer system.


Kerry is a registered social worker who passionately believes in engaging students through offering volunteering positions.

Gunhild used to be a languages and art teacher and is a passionate organiser of events and people.

Together, they combine their strengths to create opportunities for students to find their voice as well as enable and support them to speak up for themselves and their fellow students.

Summer Internship Program: Providing a holistic learning opportunity for equity students

Ms Jessica Luquin1, Ms Jessie Lui1, Ms Rita Kusevskis- Hayes1, Mr Jeffrey Meesterman1, Dr Colin Clark1

1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Kensington , Australia

The Summer Internship Program is a support initiative for equity students at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. The program provides equity students the opportunity to be involved in a unique holistic learning experience. Students were paid to complete a two-week intensive program alongside staff in the Student Life and Learning Equity Team. Students connected in a professional workplace context with their peers and the staff community to gain valuable job-ready skills, develop resources and conduct research. The internship program fosters graduate attributes and complements a student’s university degree. The program was developed as a result of a review of new and opportune ways of directly supporting equity students.

The Summer Internship program was specifically targeted at students who fall under the equity umbrella. The Early Intervention team at UNSW engaged in this project by defining Equity and an analysis of ‘domestic low SES’ as mentioned in the strategic priorities of the Australian federal government. The equity definition included domestic students in enabling and pathway programs, students with disabilities and those from disadvantaged schools. Postgraduate and undergraduate students from a range of faculties participated in this internship program.

Five initiatives formed the internship program 1. Developing Resources for Self-Advocacy and Disability Disclosure, 2. Content Marketing for Co-Curricular Experiences, 3. The Re-Engage Community Partnership Project, 4. Student Welcome Initiative and 5. Student Marketing and Communication Research


Ms. Jessica Luquin is a qualified social worker with experience working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and in data analysis. She has experience with running targeted interventions, retention and attrition of students from enabling pathway  programs. She has worked with the Student Life and Learning online tool NavigateMe since 2014 and more recently the Internship Program for Equity Students in 2016. Jessica ran a welcome initiative for Equity students in 2017 utilising online technology.

The Overseas Students Ombudsman: when things go wrong – what we can learn from current issues in student complaints

Mr Ron Colley1

1Overseas Students Ombudsman, Canberra, Australia

The National Strategy for International Education 2025 notes that ‘positive student experience is crucial to the success of Australia’s International Education sector’. With a record number of international students choosing to study in Australia this year, the challenge for us all is to maintain the positive experience and if things go wrong, to restore it.  This is where the Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO) comes in, to assist students and private education providers to resolve deadlocked disputes, including a dispute involving the actions or decisions of an education agent associated with the provider.  Last year the Government introduced the Agent Code of Ethics to provide a guide to the expected professional behaviour of individual agents and agencies working with Australian international students, parents, providers and fellow agents across the sector. Using a recent example, we’ll explore the implications for students, providers and agents when things go wrong with the agent relationship.  From 1 July 2017 the Ombudsman also took on the role of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Student Loans Ombudsman (VSLO). We’ll provide insights into the VET FEE HELP program and the VET Student Loans based on complaints received.


Ron Colley works for the Commonwealth Ombudsman and is the director of the Ombudsman’s Overseas Student Ombudsman and Postal Industry Ombudsman schemes. With over 40 years in the workforce, Ron draws on his vast experience in marketing, sales and stakeholder engagement in Government, private industry and community organisations, to work with industry to improve the quality of complaints management. Ron is married, lives and works in Melbourne and has family in both Melbourne and Perth.

Challenges and enablers for study success for students over the age of 25 living in regional Victoria

Mr Jim Young1, Ms Shannon Kerrigan1

1Manager – Student Counselling, La Trobe University, Bendigo, VIC

Mature age students (MAS) make up approximately 41 % of the national student population but only 58% complete their degrees. Students over the age of 25 are three times more likely to drop out of their first year of university than school leavers. In addition, MAS studying part time, living in rural and remote Australia and who are indigenous are at higher risk of drop out from university. This study identifies both risk factors for early withdrawal and enablers for study success for students over the age of 25, living in regional Victoria.  Findings of the study revealed that university related risks for early drop out included poor adjustment to university culture and difficulty navigating university systems. Conversely, timely access to lecturers and provision of preparative resources prior to commencing university study enabled success. Personal factors most cited as barriers to success were balancing work and family demands with study commitments and negotiating finances. Loneliness and isolation were compounding factors. This data raises significant issues for retention of MAS in Australia. The findings of this study indicate a need for targeted arrangements to meet the special needs of MAS on Australian university campuses.

Participants will be provided with practical strategies that can increase the likelihood of study retention and success.


Jim currently works as the Regional Manager of Student Counselling at Latrobe University Victoria. Jim has worked in health, higher education and management including various Senior Clinical roles in both public and private organisations. Jim holds a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Melbourne and post graduate qualifications in Mental Health Sciences and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from Flinders University. Jim has a special interest in lifestyle based approaches to managing mental illness.

Shannon currently works as the manager of Equity and Diversity at La Trobe University. Shannon has worked in the Disability and Inclusion space for many years. She has experience working on diversity and inclusion programs for women, the LGBTIQ community, people with a disability and those from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. She was responsible for establishing the ALLY program at La Trobe University and is currently working on the development of an LGBTI strategy at La Trobe University which will encompass staff, students, the community and research.

Building positive homestay experiences

Ms Jennifer Walsh1, Ms Jennifer Chow1, Mr Ian Teo1

1Trinity College, The University Of Melbourne, Carlton, VIC

The export of Australian education is currently valued at approximately $20 billion (AUD) and is our third-largest export after coal and iron ore. A significant gap in the provision and regulation of this export, however, exists with regards to homestay regulations and standards across the higher education, vocational education and training, schools, English language intensive courses and non-award courses sectors. Specifically, of the 382,106 students who started nationally across these sectors in January 2017, little is known about the number of individuals involved in homestay or the nature of their experiences.

To address this gap in the literature, this presentation will seek to outline several issues. It will begin by providing a description of homestay data within Victoria to showcase student trends and knowledge gaps. This will be followed by an overview of incoming legislation relating to homestay and 1) how the regulation of service providers remain unarticulated; 2) the problematic nature of third-parties engaging homestay providers to organise and assess student welfare and accommodation arrangements; 3) the attitudes and intentions of homestay providers; and 4) the legal responsibilities, especially in regard to the Victorian Child Safety Standards to support students and the need to train hosts on cross-cultural communication, food, and child safety.

Importantly, this presentation will provide new data on the nature of Victorian homestay students’ experiences as they transition into life in Australia and how these findings are entwined with the issues outlined above. Recommendations regarding a set of national standards to ensure the safety and security of homestay students will be proposed at the end of this presentation.


Jen Walsh has an extensive professional background in adult education, spanning numerous facets including international students, oversight of learning programs, project management and the promotion of public education.  Jen is currently the Housing and Accommodation Manager at Trinity College, University of Melbourne, working closely with external partners to ensure consistently high standards of student safety, security and wellbeing within a range of approved accommodation options.  Jen has worked in a leadership capacity within the Victorian arm of the Australian Education Union (AEU), an organisation which campaigns in the interests of public education and supports the personal, professional and industrial needs of its members. She has also managed programs at Victoria University, an institution recognised for its empowered student growth as well as for community engagement in research and knowledge exchange. Jen is currently Vice President ISANA International Education Association Inc. Victoria/Tasmania Branch.

Ian has been working within the Trinity College Foundation Studies since 2004. For much of this time he taught as a Psychology lecturer within this program while pursuing postgraduate qualifications in Higher Education. His PhD thesis, “Transitioning from a Chinese education to an Australia education – A study of FSP students”, emphasised the critical role that the social dimension has in shaping international students’ university experiences. Since 2016, Ian has transitioned into the role of Research Coordinator: Foundation Studies Program to further investigate issues relating to international education and provide research support for Trinity College staff.

Enabling student success in Victoria: Student projects funded by Study Melbourne

Ms Diana Crvenkovic1

1Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Melbourne, Australia

This presentation will provide detail on the wide variety of projects funded by Study Melbourne over the last two years to support and enhance the experience of international students living in the state.  Study Melbourne invests in projects delivered by student associations, international education associations, not for profits, companies, local governments and various partnerships.  These investments, primarily through the $4 million International Student Welfare Grants program, have supported international students living in the state to excel beyond the classroom in many areas.

These projects closely align with the conference theme of ‘Connectivity’ and ‘Enablers’ as they support successful connections between students and the wider community, ensure that students social, cultural and spiritual needs are being met and ensure conditions are in place for students to succeed in their own education journey.  The projects have:

  • built links between students and the wider community, for example through the Bendigo and Geelong based community engagement projects
  • created cultural understanding and cross cultural transition for example by supporting students to connect with their domestic counterparts through common areas of interest i.e. sports, arts and fashion
  • offered support to students navigating relationships and their sexuality, by supporting a number of different sexual health projects and mental health initiatives
  • created volunteering opportunities as a core requirement of many of the funded projects, and
  • worked successfully with student unions and student clubs/societies as key partners to the successful delivery of all projects

Another key area of focus has been supporting students facing workplace exploitation, with a concerted campaign implemented over the past two years including the establishment of the International Student Work Rights Legal Service which providing free and confidential legal advice including case work to all international students in Victoria.


Diana Crvenkovic is the Manager, Student Initiatives for Study Melbourne.  Diana is responsible for overseeing the delivery of student experience investments of the Victorian Government, including the Study Melbourne Student Centre, the International Student Welfare Program, LIVE, and other student experience-related initiatives.  She has worked in the Victorian Public Service for the last nine years, in roles supporting the Design, Biotechnology and now International Education sectors.  Diana holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Public Policy and Management and an Executive Masters of Public Administration from the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.

Planning for reintegration – when international students return home

Mr Timothy Lawther1

1Victoria University Of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

After an extended period studying abroad, many international students depart promptly, with little preparation, few farewells, and great short-term uncertainty. On a Friday, they are celebrating their last exam or final submission. On a Sunday, they are unemployed, sweating, and bartering for a tuk-tuk. Students benefit from proper post-study departure preparation, and planning for cultural reintegration.

On planning for departure, guidance can be extended to students on making culturally appropriate farewells, which will contribute to strong long-term links with faculty and peers. As many international students will be unable to attend graduation, an international student ‘completion ceremony’ can be organised, to thank them for their unique contributions to academic discourse and university diversity. Students should be prompted to acquire local keepsakes to remind them of positive times. Logistical aspects can be organised efficiently, such as paying down outstanding debts, and affordable shipping of personal items.

On arrival home, many students are ill prepared for the inevitable cultural, interpersonal, and professional challenges. They may have grown accustom to a certain quality of life, western gender norms (particularly those from the LGBTQ community), democratic processes, and collegial relationships with high-level individuals. Reintegration planning will equip international students with tools to navigate the different stages of reverse culture shock, and to do so while establishing/re-establishing their career after study.

Good practice models, developed by Victoria University of Wellington in managing the New Zealand Scholarship Programme, may assist education institutions to better support international students in their departure preparations and cultural reintegration post-study.


Tim Lawther is originally from Sydney. He did his undergraduate study at University of New England, and his Masters at Macquarie. He joined Victoria University of Wellington from the international development sector. His background is in aid projects advancing the rights of disadvantaged and minority groups. He started working with youth at Oxfam Australia, then spent five years in Timor-Leste – three years with NGOs for disability advocacy, and the last two years with the United Nations as a gender and disability technical adviser to The Ministry of Public Works. He then moved into refugee advocacy work in Wellington, and now manages the New Zealand Government-funded Scholarship Programme at Victoria University of Wellington.

Connecting our students from the “space in-between”

Mr George Greig1, Ms Tanya Savage2

1Tuākana Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland 1010, New Zealand,, 2Tuākana Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland 1010, New Zealand,

The University of Auckland’s Tuākana program has supported Māori and Pacific (MPI) students for decades through pedagogically relevant learning environments. Tuākana employs senior students to guide undergraduate MPI students through university in an academic and pastoral capacity. Despite the success of this program, today’s increasing state of social expansion and the depersonalisation of learning environments has weakened the relationships of the effective parties involved . At Tuākana Arts, a subset of the Tuākana community, we tasked ourselves with optimising the integration of student mentors and teaching staff. Our conclusions suggest that the Tuākana team needs an intermediary party, someone who knows the role and understands its institutional matrix. This was the starting point for the Tuākana team leader – a school specific intermediary that streamlines its student mentors while communicating their activity to the relevant bodies. This presentation will convey how the team leader role addresses many issues inherent in the modern student engagement sphere. Using our own experiences, we will illustrate how a team leader operates in an innovative “space in-between”. The role possesses an ability to slide on a spectrum between flexibility and procedure, an effective nuance we trust our audience will both understand and apply. We believe it empowers student engagement through communication, delegation and integration and we aspire to show this year’s student engagement community how a team leader will benefit their own endeavours.


George is a fourth-year undergraduate student completing a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Auckland. He is an active advocate and speaker for the rights and affairs of students on campus. Examples of his work include heading the ‘I, Too, Am, Auckland’ initiative , acting as a student representative in the Faculties of Arts and Law and presenting to first-year students throughout the year. During his university career, George has worked for the Tuākana program mentoring undergraduate Māori and Pacific students in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. This year George acted as the Tuākana team leader, a new intermediary role that supports the activity of its mentors. His transition from Tuākana mentor to team leader has granted him a powerful insight into the ubiquity and importance of such a role. As a student, an experienced mentor and a presenter, George seeks to present his perspectives on his team’s efforts and how they may be replicated in the wider student engagement space.



The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.