The Australian government has announced that around 3,150 Australian undergraduate students will be supported by the New Colombo Plan to study in 32 countries across the Asia-Pacific region and Indian Ocean in 2015.

According to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the expansion of the Plan reflects the strong support of the country’s partner governments for the Plan’s aims of lifting knowledge of the region for Australian young people.

Experience gained in the process of study in the region will ensure that students will make valuable contributions to activities of Australia’s business community and to driving economic growth in the country and the region in general in the years ahead, Bishop said.

The government has committed 100 million AUD (86 million USD) in new funding over five years to implement the New Colombo Plan.

A pilot phase of the Plan began earlier this year in the two ASEAN member countries of Indonesia and Singapore, along with two other Asian destinations of Japan and Hong Kong (China).

From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, the original Colombo Plan brought tens of thousands of students from Southeast Asia to study in Australia.

All 10 ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to participate in the New Plan.-VNA