Higher education institutions will be offering cut price courses starting in May to fill skill shortages to assist the economic rebound once the the coronavirus pandemic has run its course.
Education Minister Dan Tehan says the initiative will also provide people with the opportunity to re-skill or advance their careers after the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.
The online courses will run for six months in what are deemed to be “areas of national priority”, such as in nursing, teaching, counselling, IT and science.
“We’re slashing the prices of degrees and diplomas in short courses to enable people, rather than bingeing on Netflix, to be able to binge on studying,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“We’re going to need people as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said universities are absolutely critical at all times, but especially at times like these.
“We do want to see them supported,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“We will examine the detail of what the government has announced today. If the detail stacks up then we will, of course, welcome any steps to support a really key sector at these extraordinarily difficult times.”
Mr Tehan said the Morrison government will guarantee funding for universities at current levels, even if there is a fall in domestic student numbers.
Tertiary and international education providers will also get regulatory fee relief so they can better support domestic and international students, as well as provide exemptions from loan fees under FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans.
Mr 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,” he said.
“It will also provide a revenue stream for universities and private providers to assist their financial stability.”
He said like the rest of the Australian community, the higher education sector has taken a financial hit because of the coronavirus.
The Morrison government has committed to provide universities with more than $18 billion this year.
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