Commonwealth releases details of Higher Education & VET Relief Package

Commonwealth Minister for Education, The Hon Dan Tehan MP (pictured) and Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash have released details of a “Higher Education Relief Package”. (View the “Frequently Asked Questions” on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.)

The Ministers’ Joint Media Release earlier today (12 April) follows:

Australians will use their time social distancing to develop skills for new jobs in National Priority areas such as nursing, teaching, health, IT and science under a plan from the Morrison Government.

The cost to study short, online courses from our world-class universities and private providers will be slashed to help Australians retrain. The courses will start at the beginning of May and initially will run for six months.

Our Government will also guarantee funding for universities at current levels, even if there is a fall in domestic student numbers, and provide greater flexibility in the use of these funds than ever before.

Tertiary and international education providers will get regulatory fee relief so they can better support domestic and international students, as well as exemptions from loan fees under FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan said these reforms would incentivise students and universities to align with the needs of industry to meet the skill demands for the new economy that will emerge from the pandemic.

“This plan will help Australians who have lost their job or are looking to retrain to use their time studying nursing, teaching, counselling, allied health or other areas considered national priorities,” Mr Tehan said.

“It will also provide a revenue stream for universities and private providers to assist their financial stability.

“Like the rest of the Australian community, the higher education sector has taken a financial hit because of the coronavirus.

“These reforms will help universities pivot towards a closer alignment of domestic industry and student demands through innovative micro-credentials delivered flexibly online.

“Universities have proven they are up to the challenge of shifting their approach. Universities have been agile in their response to COVID19, moving swiftly to the online delivery of courses and providing additional support to international students.”

The Morrison Government had already committed to providing universities with more than $18 billion this year. Under the plan announced today, the Government will guarantee Commonwealth Grants Scheme (CGS) and HELP funding streams for higher education providers at their current levels for the rest of 2020. For public universities, their 2020 performance-based funding amounts will also be guaranteed.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash said there would be significant regulatory and fee relief provided to the vocational education and training sector, as well as higher education.

“We’re listening to industry, which is why fees charged by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will be refunded or waived,” Minister Cash said.

“These measures will put some $100 million back into the cash flow of Australian education and training businesses so this money can be used to retain employees, reshape education offerings and support domestic and international students.”

New cost recovery arrangements for TEQSA, ASQA and for the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) will all be deferred by 12 months to 1 July 2021.

There will also be a six-month exemption from the loan fees associated with FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans in the sector in a bid to encourage full-fee paying students to continue their studies despite these difficult times.

(View the detailed “Frequently Asked Questions” on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.)

Comment from CCA CEO: “CCA applauds the Commonwealth Government’s flexible and innovative approach, and hopes this will be replicated for not-for-profit adult and community education VET providers, who do the ‘heavy lifting’ with vulnerable and disadvantaged Australian learners. We note the refund in ASQA fees and welcome postponement of ASQA cost recovery measures,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CCA CEO.

“CCA is concerned that the inclusion of private for-profit non-university higher education providers – apparently committing up to $7 million – in short-term “micro-credential” certificates and diplomas, does not foreshadow a similar extension to for-profit VET providers,” said Dr Perlgut.

Media coverage and analysis of the announcement

Minister for Education Dan Tehan interview with Jeremy Lee, ABC South West Victoria Breakfast, 13 April 2020 (transcript).

Read Andrew Norton’s analysis of the announcement, “The first COVID-19 support package for higher education,” 12 April 2020; and Norton’s The Conversation article, “For most universities, there’s little point to the government’s COVID-19 assistance package,” 15 April 2020.

Watch Minister Tehan’s presentation on YouTube (video, courtesy of SBS TV, see the first 3 minutes of this 25’16” clip).

“Guaranteed funding and new online courses under university relief package,” Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 2020.

“Government to slash fees for short courses during pandemic.” ABC TV.

“Tehan wants people to go on study binge,” Canberra Times.

“Australian universities warn Covid-19 relief package not enough to stop 21,000 job losses,” The Guardian Australia, 12 April 2020.

Comments are closed.