Tracing the pathways of scholarship alumni

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Monday, May 8, 2017 - 09:00
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A new research facility, known as the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility, is gathering information about the lives and experiences of international recipients of Australian Government scholarships to evaluate public diplomacy outcomes and contribution to development around the world.

For more than 60 years, the Australian Government has been awarding the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia. Beginning as the Colombo Plan and known today as the Australia Awards, these prestigious scholarships and fellowships have been offered to more than 80 000 high achievers from the Australasian region and beyond.

The role in which these recipients play in the advancement of their chosen fields and professions, and the development of their countries when they return following study, has been recorded in various studies over the past few decades. However, a complete picture, tracing alumni back to the beginning of the scholarship programs in a consistent and comparable way across countries and regions, has not yet been developed.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has therefore engaged the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to establish the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility to monitor and evaluate the contribution of Australia Awards to alumni and their home countries and institutions, as well as to Australia.

The research undertaken by the Facility is designed to provide DFAT with robust information linked to the long term outcomes of the Australia Awards program, such as alumni’s use of knowledge and skills to contribute to development in their country; alumni’s links and networks with Australians and Australian organisations; and alumni’s perceptions of Australia.

Fieldwork for the Facility’s first Annual Tracer survey has recently been completed. In this first year, alumni who completed their scholarships between 2006 and 2010 were the target population. Sampling for the survey was undertaken to ensure a mixture of long-term and short-term alumni were involved, and alumni from a sample of 27 countries within this population were contacted by the Facility and invited to participate in an online survey and follow-up telephone interviews.

Between December and early February, more the 1500 alumni participated in the Tracer survey, and just over 500 were involved in follow-up telephone interviews. The data from these respondents is currently being coded and analysed.

While the large-scale data collection of the Tracer survey has been underway, researchers in the Facility have also been in the home countries of alumni, interviewing and compiling in-depth case studies to explore outcomes. Facility researchers have visited Fiji, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Kenya to interview alumni, their colleagues and other stakeholders.

In Fiji, the case study undertaken focused on alumni who studied in the field of education, the Sri Lanka case study had an emphasis on engineering, the Nepal work was on public policy and the Kenyan case study on agriculture and forestry alumni. Each case study targeted alumni who completed their scholarship at least 20 years ago – meaning that interviews have been carried out with alumni from the 1950s through to the 1990s.  

Find out more:For further information about the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility, visit