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Advice to applicants 2020

The 2020 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship Program Guidelines provide information about the 2020 round including eligibility requirements, how applications will be assessed and how funding will be allocated to successful applicants.

Key changes in the 2020 round

For the 2020 Scholarships round, the Guidelines have been migrated to a different template to comply with new Australian Government grant requirements. Additionally, a number of enhancements have been made to the Scholarship Program for the 2020 round including:

  • greater emphasis on encouraging a diverse range of Australian undergraduate students studying a breadth of disciplines as a key objective of the NCP Scholarship Program (sections 2.2 and 4.2)
  • removal as eligible NCP Host Locations those destinations listed in Smartraveller as 'Reconsider Your Need to Travel' (in addition to existing restrictions on 'Do Not Travel' destinations (sections 2.6 and 5.5)
  • further clarification on the role and responsibilities of the NCP Scholarship Program's Support Service Organisation (section 2.7)
  • clarification on the requirements and entitlements in relation to gaps that are permitted during the scholarship program, such as breaks between university semesters are to be treated as gaps and not a continuation of the Study Component (section 5.2 and 5.6)
  • clarification of rules for universities in Host Locations to be local universities, unless otherwise approved and the circumstances where this approval may be provided (section 5.2)
  • further clarification on the definition of an Internship (section 5.3)
  • revision and clarification of entitlements and requirements for study fees and language training fees to be covered by the Scholarship (section 5.8)
  • further clarification on the possibility of sponsorships by private sector organisations for some Scholarships (section 5.8)
  • a requirement for applicants to work with their Home University NCP Liaison Officer for Scholarships as well as their Faculty to submit the necessary documentation to support their application (section 7.4)
  • changes to the dates for the opening of the nomination and application periods, brought forward by two weeks in 2020 (section 7.5)
  • a requirement for Scholars to adhere to the Child Protection Policy of the Service Provider once on Scholarship (section 10.3).

Lessons learned from previous rounds to assist applicants for the 2020 round

The following generic feedback might assist universities in nominating applicants, and applicants in preparing their written applications.

For applicants who were unsuccessful in previous rounds, there were a range of common areas where responses to the section criteria could have been strengthened, including:

  • Criterion 1, which relates to applicants' academic excellence at the tertiary level, has two components: i) the applicant's university grades which are automatically factored into the overall score, and ii) the written element of this criterion asks about the applicant's ungraded, academic achievements at the tertiary level. Applications that were not shortlisted often did not demonstrate sufficient evidence of a student's academic excellence that goes beyond university grades or did not make a good case for the applicant's communication skills, higher-order cognitive and critical thinking skills and engagement in learning.
  • Criterion 2 asks applicants to demonstrate that they have exercised leadership and engagement in the community. Responses that have scored poorly in the past did not articulate how the applicant demonstrated leadership skills or was in a position of leadership as opposed to being a participant in a group or role. Responses that have scored well demonstrated both an active engagement in the community via multiple roles as well as leadership roles (whether formally assigned or not).
  • Criterion 3 asks applicants to demonstrate their potential to adapt and thrive in a foreign environment and their resilience in the face of challenges. Strong answers to this criterion have included concrete examples of these qualities, and strategies employed to manage adversity, and an understanding of what it means to deal with change, or operate in a foreign environment. Applicants who have never travelled overseas before can, and have, provided strong responses to this criterion, for example, by discussing challenges or changes they have faced in Australia.
  • Criterion 4 asks applicants to detail how they can contribute to the NCP's objectives as set in the 2020 Scholarship Program Guidelines. Responses that have scored poorly against this particular criterion have not demonstrated that the applicant understands the objectives of the NCP or focus solely on how the program would benefit the applicant, rather than focusing on how the applicant's program would help support the goals of the NCP. Responses that have tended to score well against this particular criterion have clearly demonstrated how the applicant will contribute to NCP goals over time and as an alumnus.

In some cases, referee reports did not provide additional value to information provided in the applicant's own written application. As referee reports are a critical source of information for the selection process, applicants should choose referees carefully, ensuring that they have a good knowledge of the applicant's abilities in relation to the selection criteria. Applicants should provide sufficient time for referees to produce a considered report. Further information for applicants, referees and Australian Universities regarding the referee report process is provided in the Guide to Referee Reports in New Colombo Plan Online (for Applicants and referees) [PDF 630 KB] | [Word 1.39 MB].

The interview questions always reflect the criteria and applicants are strongly encouraged to prepare and practice for their interviews ahead of time. A number of universities have assisted students by running mock interviews, or may include an interview in their nomination process.

Where applicants are similarly meritorious at both the application and interview stages, preference is given to applicants proposing longer periods of study and/or an internship/mentorship and/or longer periods of language training. This aligns with the NCP's objective to give scholars a long-term and comprehensive experience in the Indo-Pacific region. It follows that the longer an applicant's stay, and the more elements their program includes, the richer their experience is likely to be. Priority will also be given to applicants who can demonstrate a correlation across their proposed study, language and internship components.

Consideration will also be given to encouraging representation from diverse student groups including but not limited to, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, students from a Low Socio-economic Status background, students from Regional/Remote areas or universities, students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds, students across the Genders, female students in non-traditional fields, or students with a Disability.

Some locations are more popular than others. While there are no caps on the number of scholarships awarded per host location, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will seek to ensure a spread across host locations. In the 2019 round, the locations for which the greatest numbers of applications were received were Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and the Republic of Korea.

Thank you for your interest in the 2020 round of the New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program.

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