Past, Present, Future: Sponsored Students Forum 2016

IEAA's Sponsored Students Forum was held on Thursday 7–Friday 8 April at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

The forum brought together education providers, government representatives and sponsorship bodies – including the Embassy of Brazil, Kuwait Cultural Office, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and the United Arab Emirates Cultural Attaché – to explore the past, present and future of scholarship programs in Australia.

Key take away points:

  • The price of oil will continue to have an impact on the quantity of scholarships being offered by many countries. Ongoing budget issues are also an issue for a number of countries, including Malaysia.
  • Many sponsors are changing their approach, focussing more on quality of students and limiting destination of study to top ranked providers (e.g. top 50 or top 100). There is an associated perception of quality that comes with high ranking institutions.
  • Visa changes may impact on the possibility of new sponsors entering the Australian market – with students claiming protection to impact on university risk ratings.
  • Understanding different grading systems across Australian institutions remains an issue for many sponsors.

View the highlights from Twitter.

Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission

  • Dr Fahad Al-Qurashi, Academic Director (Victoria), Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission

Headline news

A decision has been made by the Saudi Ministry of Education that students will only be able to attend top 50 ranked universities.

Dr Fahad was unable to clarify if this decision was related to subject or institutional rankings, and he did not know which ranking regime was to be used. Exceptions will be made for students who are sponsored by Saudi universities. This is a new decision, and is part of a broader push for quality of both scholars and perceived outcomes.

Other notes

  • The peak of Saudi scholars in Australia was 2008–2011. There are now 6,000 students in Australia.
  • There is now a focus on quality – sending serious students to particular schools to study particular programs.
  • At the beginning, thirst for the program meant that everyone who applied got in. Then some went home without a degree.
  • Now, only serious students that meet certain requirements will be considered. It should be obvious in the students that are coming through. Going to the 'big' schools.
  • Issues can be found in terminology – i.e. linguistics – if it comes from the Department of Education, but it is not accepted in Saudi Arabia. However, if it is delivered by the Department of English or Linguistics it is accepted. This is less of a problem now.
  • Selection? Students apply online, applications evaluated by a committee, high school GPA, aptitude test (like SAT).
  • Courses or programs? Who sets the priorities? Set by the Ministry of Education, Minister of Health, Universities.
  • Which rankings do you use? Dr Fahad could not confirm what ranking the Ministry uses, but he thinks they look at more than one background.
  • Is it an equity scholarship - i.e does it have anything to do with financial background? No, it is all to do with aptitude.
  • Dr Fahad noted that the Ministry of Education is keen to see that PhD programs are not dissertation only.
  • With limitations given, is the number going to increase or decrease in the future? Dr Fahad said that SACM hope the number of available scholarships doesn't drop further.
  • Regarding issues with the use of agents, Dr Fahad noted that there had been problems with admissions via agents. SACM was keen to improve experience of students (i.e. not surrounded by other Saudi students who speak the same language). According to Dr Fahad, “No more agents are allowed to interfere."

Science Without Borders

  • Bianca Abreu, Embassy of Brazil in Canberra
  • Ana Paula Lacerda, Embassy of Brazil in Canberra

Headline news

The future of Science Without Borders will focus less on numbers, and more on depth.

Other notes

  • Politically and economically there are issues in Brazil that make things difficult. It is not clear what will happen with the scholarship program in 2017.
  • The program has had an impact on Brazilian higher education.
  • Any new phase may be open to other universities outside the Australian Technology Network (ATN) and the Group of Eight (Go8), but will not have the same structure as Science Without Borders.
  • The Australian Government has tried to keep engaged with the alumni through a LinkedIn group.
  • The Australian Government is keen for the program to continue, but Brazil will require scholarships so may need some reciprocity (can apply for Endeavour Awards and Fellowships, but Latin America has been removed from Australia Awards). The Embassy noted the Victorian Government offers a scholarship to Latin American students, and saw this as a positive development.

Science Without Borders

Student Panel

George Carter, Samoa

Completed undergraduate study in New Zealand, Postgraduate Masters with an Australia Awards, and now his PhD with an ANU Merit scholarship.

Key points:

  • Pastoral care is very important. In particular, the first week post arrival is very important - mixed emotions in that first week. Students have made an investment of time and money, and emotions, leaving behind a lot.
  • Sponsored students staff should help students across the line with counselling and other support.
Maria Sandoval Guzman, Mexico

Endeavour Award – studying her Masters in Economics

Key points:

  • Maria noted that it would take 13 years of saving 100 per cent of her wage to pay for her scholarship, and 71 years for a Mexican earning minimum wage.
  • She encouraged us to see the value of the scholarships.
Ristian Supriyanto, Indonesia

LPDP - Indonesian Endowment fund for Education

Key points:

  • LPDP now have 56 scholars at ANU.
  • 15 universities in Australia are in the LPDP program.
  • Pre-departure course = 1 week.
  • Open to all Indonesian nationals but under 35 for Masters, and under 40 for PhD.
Keat Hui Ng (Brandon), Malaysia

JPA – undergraduate study

Key points:

  • JPA is also focused on high ranking institutions.
  • A pre-departure briefing is held, but many JPA students are now studying in Malaysian universities.


What role does pre-departure play?
  • Pre-departure programs need to prepare students for being part of a multicultural society.
  • Programs need to encourage students to be engaged in extra-curricula and curricula activities.
Students struggling - what can be done to support students who are struggling before it is too late?
  • Pastoral care, multiple interventions.
  • Scholarship "carers"

Sponsor Speed Dating

The Kuwait Cultural Office, UAE Military Attaché & UAE Embassy, Malaysian Consul (JPA), Botswanan High Commission and the Defence Cooperation Scholarship Program all participated in Sponsor Speed Dating, talking to delegates for over an hour (in 10 minute rotations).

Both sponsors and participants were deeply engaged in discussions during this event as it was the first time for many participants to actually meet with the sponsors.

Research on Scholarships

Where Education, Development and Diplomacy meet: the Multiple Roles of Development Scholarships
  • Anna Kent, IEAA Sponsored Students Special Interest Group

Anna Kent presented on her MA research on 'Where education, development and diplomacy meet: the multiple roles of development scholarships'.

Where education, development and diplomacy meet

Scholarships and Connections
  • Professor David Lowe, Deakin University
  • Dr Jemma Purdey, Monash University

Professor David Lowe and Dr Jemma Purdey presented their research project looking at 'Scholarships and Connections' between Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

This project recorded over 100 life stories of students from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea who were sponsored to study in Australia from the 1950s–2010. These interviews deepen our understanding of scholarship programs and their capacity to build mutually beneficial linkages between Australia and partner countries.

Scholarships and connections in public diplomacy

Alumni Panel

  • Lily Yulianti Farid – Indonesia, AusAID ADS and Australian Leadership Awards
  • Didin Hidayat – Indonesia, AusAID ADS
  • Butet Manurung – Indonesia, AusAID ADS
  • Van Kien Nguyen – Vietnam, AusAID ADS

The alumni panel provided us with useful insights into their tenacity (many applied several times before successfully receiving a scholarship) and the role the scholarships have played in their lives post-award.

All four panel members have ongoing connections to Australia, and take their role in developing their home countries seriously.

Australian Government Scholarships

Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships
  • Clare Boutchard, Department of Education and Training

Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships: Achievement and future directions

Defence Cooperation Scholarship Program
  • Alison White, Scope Global
  • Paige Wirtanen, Department of Defence

Defence Cooperation Scholarship Program

Defence Cooperation Program

Australia Awards
  • Laura Ralph, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Australia Awards