After more than nine years of program delivery and with more than four hundred students graduated, the Laos Australia National Scholarships (LANS) program, funded by the Australian Government through the Laos Australia Institute (LAI), will see its last students graduate in 2023. In recognition of the quality of programs delivered through LANS and maintaining high standards through to its last class, more than 30 participants gathered at the Landmark Hotel in Vientiane on 2nd February 2021 to reflect on lessons learnt and focus on continued quality program delivery.
Mr Matthew Banks, First Secretary Australian Embassy, Assoc. Prof. Dr Saykhong Saynasine, Director General of the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education and Sport, Mrs Daovading Phirasayphithak, Deputy Secretary-General of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mrs Sivone Homephinkeo, Deputy Head of Student Affairs Office, National University of Laos (NUOL), and Emily Serong, Director of Laos Australia Institute were amongst those present at the Landmark Hotel to pay recognition to the quality outcomes already achieved through LANS and to reiterate the need to maintain program quality, including to keep LANS relevant to industry needs while providing access and equity for a diverse range of students. Matthew Banks explained that the Australian Embassy program priorities change over time but that resources are committed to LANS through to 2023.
The National University of Laos and Souphaouvong University, as key partners in the delivery of LANS, provided valuable lessons learnt, including from the academic support program, pastoral care, inclusive education, and the alumni support program. LANS alumnus Boualoy Thongkham from the National University of Laos stated, “as a LANS alumnus, I genuinely feel that my skills and experience in the area of psychology will make a difference to my future work and my home province of Sayabury, thank you LAI, DFAT and of course NUOL”.
Souphanouvong University student, Khamkeo Bounsawat, explained that as a student with a disability, LANS has accommodated her specific needs and provided an opportunity that she would not normally expect from a university.
At the end of the workshop, the meeting agreed on a number of activities to be proposed to the Australian Embassy in Laos for financial and technical support during the remaining years of LANS.