Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell at the
Celebration of Partnerships: Queensland University of Technology and Philippine Universities
4 March 2015
Makati Shangri-La Hotel
• Honourable Professor Alex Brillantes, Commissioner, Commission on Higher Education (CHED)
• Professor Peter Coaldrake , Vice Chancellor, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and his QUT team
• Distinguished representatives of partner Philippine universities
• Filipino alumni of QUT
• Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning and thank you for the warmth of your welcome to me and to my Embassy colleagues, Geoff and Matt.
I feel privileged to be part of a gathering that brings together the best academic minds from Australia and the Philippines. It is indeed an honour to witness another milestone in the cooperation between our two countries.
On behalf of the Australian Government, my congratulations to Queensland University of Technology and the partner universities: De La Salle University, Mindanao State University, Philippine Normal University, University of the East, University of Mindanao, University of the Philippines, University of San Carlos, University of Santo Tomas, and University of Southeastern Philippines.
It is an enormous privilege for me to share this platform with Professor Peter Coaldrake. More years ago than either of us would care to remember, Professor Coaldrake and I were students together at James Cook University – he achieving much more distinction than I, contrary to Peter’s kind remarks earlier. I’ve taken immense joy from watching the success Peter has enjoyed as a university leader of enormous energy, entrepreneurship and vision. He and I were honoured to be among Outstanding JCU Alumni recognised in 2010.
I also declare a personal connection with QUT: my father was a civil engineering graduate from what became QUT; and one of my brothers-in-law is a law graduate from QUT. A great institution.
Ladies and gentlemen, Australia’s partnership with the Philippines is of long standing. It is a relationship that is both deep and diverse. We are collaborating in productive ways on a range of issues that are important to both countries. One such area is in education - a key feature of our strong bilateral relationship dating back to the 1950s, starting with Filipino scholars supported under the Colombo Plan. I am pleased to announce that many years later, Australia’s New Colombo Plan provides opportunities for Australians to study in the Philippines.
The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government. The program provides funding for Australian undergraduate students to study and work throughout the Indo-Pacific region, as we strive to provide a generation of young Australians with a chance to develop new insights, ideas and networks within our region.
This year, we have welcomed our first Philippines Fellow under the program, Emily Pritchard.
Later in the year, Emily will be joined by another scholar and several groups of students undertaking shorter periods of study throughout the country.
I have been particularly pleased at the interest already shown by Philippine universities, just like those here today, who want to partner with Australian universities and students. I know that Australian students who come to the Philippines to study will benefit academically – but also greatly enjoy the opportunity to live, study and work alongside Filipino colleagues.
It is this potential of education to build on the deep people-to-people links which already exist between our countries which I personally value so much.
In the Philippines, Australia’s development programs work to increase opportunities for young Filipinos to obtain a level of education that will prepare them for lifelong learning and career development. We give considerable support to the local education sector, including in support of reforms related to the Department of Education’s K to 12 initiative through the Basic Education Sector Transformation or BEST Program.
Education is critical in this era of globalisation, and is particularly relevant for the Philippines as ASEAN countries move towards economic integration in 2015. The ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework, or AQRF, with which the Philippine curriculum now aligns, is closely modeled on the Australian Qualifications Framework or AQF.
We are also actively sharing our world-class Australian tertiary education with Filipinos through the prestigious Australia Awards. Since the 1950s, we have provided scholarships and fellowship grants to over 2,500 of the best and the brightest Filipinos to undertake graduate studies and professional development in Australia. Over-all, there were more than 6,000 Filipino students in 2014-15 who studied in Australia, which includes full-fee paying students at all levels of study. The number of Filipino students going to Australia for studies has been growing by an average of 17 per cent over the last four years. This is a testament to the growing appreciation of Australia’s high-quality education offerings.
In 2010, Australia, through the Human Resource and Organisational Development Facility (HRODF), introduced the institutional partnerships initiative. It sought to provide tailored and contextually-relevant educational experiences for Filipinos. The first partnership of this endeavour was between the University of Newcastle and the University of Mindanao, which saw 12 teachers from Mindanao receive their Masters degrees in Educational Studies. We now have 14 productive partnerships between Philippine and Australian academic institutions, covering a range of sectors like peace and stability, disaster risk reduction, human resource development, and governance. There are also nearly 40 transnational education partnerships between Philippine and Australian institutions, ranging from articulation programs to locally- delivered courses.
Today, the MOU signing between QUT and the nine prestigious Philippine universities here today is a testament to a mutually-beneficial partnership. It is our great hope that both Australians and Filipinos will reap the gains of this new program.
At this point, please allow me to congratulate the men and women who have made this partnership happen. The Australian Government appreciates your efforts in putting this innovative program together.
Thank you and congratulations again to everyone involved in this program!