A SELECT group of 40 of Australia's best and brightest university students will get the chance to travel to Asia on a scholarship under the Abbott Government's New Colombo Plan next year.
Joined by diplomatic and political dignitaries in parliament's Great Hall, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched the plan today, revealing Governor-General Quentin Bryce as its patron.
Ms Bishop said the government's "most significant foreign policy initiative" would send up to 40 students overseas to four countries in its pilot year in 2014.
She said it would help create a powerful network of alumni from the program; students she hoped would become future business, community and political leaders.
With $100 million over five years, the plan will offer 40 scholarship places for high achieving undergraduates aged 18-28 across the country and 700 mobility grants for students to complete internships overseas.
Stints in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore are on offer for the "best and brightest" hopefuls next year, plus further opportunities for study and cultural exchanges with the full roll-out from 2015.
The top-ranked candidate will later be offered an exclusive spot as a New Colombo Plan Fellow, while all Australian universities will be asked early next year to nominate their five top candidates for a scholarship.
Heavily weighted towards high academic achievement, Ms Bishop said she hoped the program would be a reverse of the original Colombo Plan, which has had successful alumni such as Indonesian Vice-President Boediono.
Full guidelines for applicants and universities are available here.
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