La Trobe University welcomes Asia focus

Posted on November 2, 2012

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Building on long-established links: Vice-Chancellor Dewar, left, on a recent State visit to China with Victorian Premier Baillieu, right, and Sichuan University Vice President, Professor Shijing Yan.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar, has welcomed the federal government’s increased focus on Asia.

He has also endorsed a statement by the group of Innovative Research Universities (IRU) – of which La Trobe is a founding member – that regional partnerships by Australian universities have contributed to capacity building and the rapid development of Asian nations.

La Trobe, he added, is a recognised national centre for Asian studies, one of only two universities in Australia to teach Indonesian and Hindi, as well as offering Mandarin.

‘From our long-established links with India and South Asia to the recent opening of our Confucius Institute, we have played a key role in the region and are therefore ideally placed to deepen our Asian teaching and research programs.’

Professor Dewar said the government white paper emphasised that Australia’s future prosperity was closely linked to our ability to successfully engage with Asia.

Student participation in Asia

‘We have an extremely active mobility program with China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. Since 2010 student participation in the program has increased by about 50 per cent – from 162 students to 313 this year.’

‘We also have a highly successful and active Centre for China Studies. This and our Confucius Institute have recently extended a unique two-way student exchange program with Peking University, Beijing Foreign Studies University and Chongqing University, with special funding from the Chinese Government.’

Professor Dewar said La Trobe’s Confucius Institute is a key platform for strengthening Australia’s links with China across the higher education, business and government sectors, as well as within the community.

Former Indian Prime Minister Gandhi visiting La Trobe in 1968

Research and teaching links in Asia include health sciences and public health administration under the University’s China Health Program, and information science and technology partnerships in India and China through the Centre for Technology Infusion, as well as in Japan.

‘Our Centre for Dialogue is involved in a major “Australia-China high-level talks project”, part of a series of regional dialogue ventures that also include Indonesia and Malaysia. And we have just graduated our tenth PhD in Chinese archaeology, the culmination of a program which led the way in this field in Australia.’

‘Making the world our campus’

The University also has a special relationship and exchange scheme with Lady Shri Ram College in India, which goes back sixteen years – and La Trobe urban planning students can spend up to five weeks in Sri Lanka gaining first hand experience, Professor Dewar said.

This work has included helping with post-tsunami recovery programs, resulting in an award-winning educational video called ‘Making the world our campus’.

Professor Dewar said La Trobe University’s association with India and South Asia goes back to the late 1960s. ‘One of the earliest distinguished visitors to our Melbourne campus was former Indian Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi.’

‘There have been strong teaching and research links ever since, including the study of Sanskrit. Today our library holds one of Australia’s finest collections dealing with India and South Asia and is used by international scholars and diplomats.

‘We have also hosted visits by Indian cultural figures like writer-activist Arundhati Roy – and the largest Indian feature film shot in Australia, Salaam Namaste, was partly filmed on our Melbourne campus!’

Professor Okano

‘Sounds like just what the government ordered’

La Trobe’s three-year Bachelor of Arts (Major in Asian Studies) ‘sounds like just what the government ordered’ The Age in Melbourne reported in a recent on-line article.

It ‘gives you the chance to learn all about Asia, teaching the kind of cultural sensitivity required when interacting with people of Asian background, explains Kaori Okano, head of La Trobe’s Asian Studies program. In the first year, you will take two core subjects, one covering Japan and Indonesia, the other China and India.

‘You will look at everything from the geography and history of those countries, to their governments and popular culture’, the article said. Read more here

See also: 

La Trobe signs major health-training agreements with China

Forging stronger partnerships with India