“What this does is provide ballast for the university sector to help and support them through the coronavirus pandemic,” Education Minister Dan Tehan said.
“For those people who have lost work or might be looking to use this time to transition or reskill in the workforce, we have created for the first time a diploma certificate and we are expanding graduate certificates.”
The courses will start in May and focus on priority areas including nursing, teaching, counselling, maths, English, languages, agriculture, allied health, IT, engineering, environmental studies and science. Students can get HELP loans for the courses, which will cost either $1250 or $2500.
Mr Tehan said the package could potentially support 20,000 places for the online courses across the sector but the availability will vary between institutions. Some universities have delayed their enrolment deadlines for this semester and are awaiting final confirmation of the decline in student numbers.
There are acute fears for smaller universities that lack the margins and financial security of the major institutions. Private colleges could also be at risk, facing similar declines in domestic and international student numbers.
The relief package will include regulatory and fee relief for the vocational education and training sector, refunding and waiving fees imposed by regulators and deferring cost recovery requirements.
“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,” said Employment and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash.
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Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.