By Bernard Lane
A new China strategy role and Indonesian language scholarships are among early examples of universities taking up the challenge of the Asian Century white paper.
Laurie Pearcey, ex chief executive of the Australia China Business Council, has been chosen as inaugural director of China strategy and development at the University of NSW.
And the University of Western Australia has unveiled Boediono scholarships — named after Indonesia's vice-president, a UWA graduate — for the study of Indonesian language and culture.
UNSW's pro vice-chancellor international Fiona Docherty said the appointment of Mr Pearcey as China strategist for the university was "the first in a series of tangible responses" to the white paper and "a first of its kind" for Australian higher education.
"If Australia is serious about its engagement with the region we need to invest in the people to build relationships and consolidate opportunities," she said.
Mr Pearcey, who will also direct the Confucius Institute at UNSW, will work to promote research collaboration with Chinese institutions and industry.
He is a Mandarin speaker, UNSW graduate, and has advised corporations including Rio Tinto and Huawei Technologies.
At UWA, up to four Boediono scholarships worth $5000 each will be offered each year to encourage students in the elite Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) program to study Indonesian language and culture.
Arts dean Krishna Sen said the university hoped that the association between such a successful alumnus and the competitive BPhil (Hons) program showed the high value that UWA placed on Indonesian studies.
"We hope that this will help build the image of Indonesian studies at UWA and elsewhere," Professor Sen said.
Murdoch University's professor of South-East Asian studies David Hill, author of a national report on the state of Indonesian studies, said he could not think of other institutions "with a specific Indonesian scholarship like this".
"I certainly hope that other universities step up to follow suit with such scholarships to encourage in-country study in Indonesia," he said.
Professor Sen said UWA's effort to promote languages generally was based on the belief that "the next generation will need scientists and engineers and designers who are bi-lingual or even polyglot".
UWA has also launched the Perth USAsia Centre to harness its geography to analysis of relations between Australia, the US and Asia.
"We share a time zone with the nations that promise the greatest economic growth of the 21st century and an abiding interest in the strategic and economic future of the US," said UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson.
This article was originally published by The Australian