Australia's New Colombo Plan: Enhancing regional soft power through student mobility
The New Colombo Plan (NCP), a key plank in the Australian government’s foreign policy agenda, leverages student mobility as public diplomacy to improve Australia’s standing and influence within the Indo-Pacific region. Conceptualized as a “rite of passage” for young Australians, the NCP has been welcomed by Australian business, industry groups, and stakeholders because of its potential to deliver lasting relationships and practical economic benefits. Coordinated by the foreign affairs portfolio, the NCP represents a significant and distinct component of Australia’s public diplomacy, firmly aligned to advance the state’s economic diplomacy agenda. This paper explores the evolution of the NCP. It draws on stakeholder impressions from the program launch and pilot to explore early limitations and deeper soft power challenges. Findings suggest that the NCP is robust, yet key issues of strategic coherence, partnership, and evaluation require further attention if it is to deliver on its soft power promise.