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Australia – HE relief package to mitigate impact of the COVID-19 crisis

With the spread of the current epidemic, Australia’s higher education sector is suffering: with most foreign students leaving (and with them the fees and living expenses they pay) the nation is losing one of its largest sources of income.

UNSW Sydney and the Universities of Sydney and Queensland, which are three of the biggest educators of foreign students, estimate their losses between AUD 470 Million (app. EUR 282 Million) and AUD 600 Million (app. EUR 360 Million). This year, most of them received from international students’ fees (about AUD 500 Million or EUR 300 Million each in 2018)

Thus, the Australian government has instated new arrangements, guaranteeing teaching grants at last year’s level to help the sector weather the economic impact of COVID-19. Canberra also plans on waiving regulatory and load fees to help private tertiary education colleges and bankroll short online micro-credentials in varying sectors (nursing, teaching, health, information technology, science etc.) for people to use the time offered by the lockdown in a productive way. Therefore, the costs of courses in health, teaching, nursing or other areas (considered national priorities) will also be lowered. This will further allow for universities to maintain a revenue stream.

Dan Tehan, Education Minister, hopes that those changes will encourage universities to focus their teaching in areas aligned with “domestic industry and student demands”.

The objective of this new funding is to offer skillsets for recently unemployed students that will be in high demand in the economy in the aftermath of the current pandemic. Facilitating micro-credentials is considered a significant initiative that will be beneficial for those most challenged/affected by the coronavirus, allowing them to maintain acquisition of skills and to benefit their professional growth. Universities Australia (UA), representing the country’s 39 universities, has the objective of ensuring that those six-month courses will be ready to start in May.