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The Endeavour scholarships program in the era of the Asian century: promise unfulfilled

Joanne Susan Barker (RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 30 April 2024




The Australian Government has long used its international scholarship programs as an instrument of soft power in international diplomacy. The paper examines an international scholarship program and its role in Australia’s soft power efforts during a period in recent history.


The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper of 2012 is used as a lens to reveal how the Australian Government viewed the role of international scholarship programs in international diplomacy at a specific point in the recent past, and compares it with research revealing what was contemporaneously happening with one key government-funded scholarship program.


This paper is based on a comprehensive case study of the Australian Government’s Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships program (2004–2019). Endeavour was an ambitious and expensive merit-based program with 6,600 recipients in numerous and diffuse sub-categories. The program was complex and cumbersome and lacked clear priorities, particularly in its lack of geographic focus. It missed opportunities to connect with the political zeitgeist, largely due to opaque priorities and inadequate evaluation regimes which focused entirely on outcomes for individual recipients rather than on relationships for Australia.


This research draws on the first academic study of the Endeavour program. Other scholarship programs (for example Australia Awards and the New Colombo Plan) have attracted considerable scholarly interest. The Endeavour research provides an additional counterpoint for studies of Australian scholarship programs and their contribution to international diplomacy. It is timely to consider this in 2024 when Australia is putting a new focus on its investment in international scholarships.



Funding: The original research for this article was funded by a Research Training Scholarship from the Australian Government, 2018–2021.


Barker, J.S. (2024), "The Endeavour scholarships program in the era of the Asian century: promise unfulfilled", History of Education Review, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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