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Australia publishes its vision for the Asian Century

The federal government’s Australia in the Asian Century white paper sets few concrete targets for higher education and science.

One of the few targets of the paper, published on 28 October, is to get 10 of the country’s universities into the world’s top 100 by 2025.

Australia had five universities—the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, Sydney University and the University of Western Australia—in the top 100 of the most recent Shanghai ranking, to which the paper refers.

The policy roadmap also highlights the teaching of Asian languages in schools, mandatory Asia-related curricula, stronger research links with countries in the region, and more students undertaking part of their degrees in Asia.

“We will provide more financial support and information for students who study in Asia. And we will support universities to increase the number of students who undertake Asian studies and Asian languages as a part of their university education,” the paper states.

There are no details of how much funding will be available to meet these objectives.

The Asia Education Foundation has estimated it would take about AU$100 million a year to double the number of students studying an Asian or other foreign language, according to reports in The Australian newspaper. The government’s vision of more universities among the world’s best will not be cheap either, according to Ross Milbourne, vice-chancellor of the University of Technology, Sydney.

He told The Australian that it might cost the government AU$10bn a year to realise this part of the plan.

According to Milbourne, lower-ranked candidates for top 100 status among Australian universities have an average research income of AU$50m-AU$60m a year, which would have to rise to at least AU$372m to achieve a spot in the Shanghai top 100.

“That implies you have to add $10bn a year to the higher education budget and then … wait about 15 years for the research to produce an impact and citations [to influence rankings],” he told the newspaper.