Miri – 21 May 2013 – More Australian students are likely to be heading to Malaysia for study experiences at universities in the country this year under the Australian and Malaysian government-sponsored AsiaBound programme.
Among the universities participating in the programme is Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) and its pro vice-chancellor and chief executive, Professor Ian Kerr, is optimistic that students from Curtin’s main campus at Bentley in Perth and other Australian universities will take advantage of the two to three programmes to be organised each year in Sarawak.
Under the programmes, the students will spend two weeks here and visit the local communities to give them a global perspective and an understanding of local cultures as well as the development of the state.
His said this following the arrival of the first batch of eight undergraduate students from Curtin Bentley under the programme recently.
The AsiaBound programme is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Malaysia and Australia at Curtin University in Perth last year. The MoU, which was signed by former Malaysian Minister for Higher Education, Dato’ Mohamed Khaled bin Nordin, and Australia’s Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, strengthens a long history of engagement between the nations in education, and reflects an ongoing joint commitment to increasing collaboration and policy dialogue on higher education issues.
The MoU supports the Australian government’s efforts to ensure young Australians are well placed to prosper in the Asian Century, by ensuring that student mobility between the nations goes both ways. The AsiaBound programme will enable Australian students to become Asian-literate by experiencing Asia first-hand.
Curtin University was chosen as the location for the signing and announcement due to its strong Malaysian student cohort and its relevance and presence in Asia, particularly in Malaysia.
According to Australian High Commission counsellor (Education and Science) Louise McSorely, who visited Miri recently, the AisaBound programme aims to even out the existing imbalance between the 800 to 1,000 Australian students coming to Malaysia annually compared to the over 25,000 Malaysian students currently in Australia.
“Both Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak agreed that more Australians should come here,” she told reporters during a cocktail reception in Miri to welcome the Perth students.
Among those present at the cocktail were former deputy chief minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr. George Chan, who is Curtin Sarawak’s campus council chair, Curtin sarawak’s management board chair Datuk Lee Kim Shin, pro vice-chancellor Professor Ian Kerr, incoming pro vice-chancellor Professor Jim Mienczakowski and dean of School of Business Professor Francois Therin.
McSorley added that under the programme, Malaysia will help to finance the study trips for the Australian students to come to Malaysia. She said the Australian government has allocated over the next three years a total of AUD37 million (RM100 million) to encourage Australian students to come to Asia, including to Malaysia, under the programme.
Meanwhile, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr. Chan said the AsiaBound programme augured well for Curtin Sarawak as it will help make the university a truly international one and its students can interact with fellow students from a variety of countries through the programme.
The eight Curtin Perth students, who were from various faculties at the main campus, visited the rural community of Long Bedian and two nearby schools about five hours drive from Miri to experience the lifestyles and learn more about the livelihoods and aspirations of the people there.
During a discussion with Curtin University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Jeanette Hacket, who managed to catch up with them while on a visit to Miri, the students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to experience Sarawak and that they would gladly return to Miri for a similar trip if given the opportunity. They also said they would be willing ambassadors for Miri and the AsiaBound programme in Western Australia.
Meanwhile, Curtin Sarawak’s incoming pro vice-chancellor Professor Jim Mienczakowski said the AsiaBound programme in Sarawak would be given greater impetus with a proposed programme in eco-tourism to be developed at Curtin Sarawak next year. Professor Mienczakowski will be taking over the reins of Curtin Sarawak from Professor Kerr in July this year.
He said Sarawak, being part of the 12 mega biodiversity hotspots in the world, offers great potential for research and students from around the world coming to Miri will not only benefit from a world-class Australian tertiary education at Curtin Sarawak, but also the opportunity to experience the natural wonders of Malaysia, especially Miri.
“I think this is one of the most significant regions in the world in terms of its natural resources and ecological importance. Eco-tourism is one of the richest environments to study and for young people to explore,” he added.
Professor Mienczakowski also said the staff at Curtin Sarawak will work with students joining the AsiaBound programme in Sarawak on how to attract more students from their respective countries, including Australia, to come to Miri.
For more information on Curtin Sarawak, visit its website at www.curtin.edu.my, its Facebook page at facebook.com/CurtinUniversitySarawakMalaysia, Twitter profile at twitter.com/curtinsarawak, YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/CurtinUniSarawak, or Instagram at instagram.com/curtinsarawak.