The country has observed massive reductions in primary student visa holders in the past year
The Australian government has announced a $53 million support package for international education providers in the country, that have been hit hardest by COVID-19, building on the $47.5 million reduction in regulation costs last year.
The support package is targeted at English-language and non-university higher education providers, with an aim to encourage them to refocus business models on Australian students and expand online and offshore courses.
The government has allocated a total of $26.1 million for extra 5,000 short course places in 2021-22 to help non-university higher education providers attract more Australian students. An additional $9.4 million will be used to start an innovation fund that will offer grants upto $150,000 for 182 private ELICOS and private higher education providers to grow offshore and online delivery.
Alan Tudge, Australia’s minister for education and youth said that while the international border closure has been the best defence against the virus, it has denied the country of international students.
With no more compulsion to report the monthly receipt of fees, 1,200 private international education providers will benefit from $7.1 million in administrative savings. This will allow educators to maintain maximum possible capacity before international students are allowed back.
According to Tudge, many non-varsity providers have seen a sharp decline in revenue, and might face closure or a reduction in capacity without support. He indicated that the government might choose a quarantine proposal for international students.
Although English Australia, a teaching sector body, said that the package of action was welcome, it highlighted that the support wasn’t enough. The body had earlier suggested that the official government figures do not accurately show the troubled situation the sector finds itself in.
The February government data shows a 67 per cent international student enrolment decline for English language providers, and a 12 per cent decline for varsities, which stretches to 17 per cent for non-university higher education providers. Tudge added that the $9.4 million set aside for innovation grants would encourage providers to take advantage of growing domestic student numbers, and cater to international students offshore through the online mode.
A $17.7 million sum will extent the pause on fees and charges on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, and Australian Skills Quality Authority till January 1, 2022. Stuart Robert, the minister for employment, workforce, skills, small and family business said that the continuation of government assistance through fee relief will support sustainability for the VET sector and its post-pandemic recovery.
The waiver on regulatory fees has been met with positive remarks, as many feel it would benefit small and niche providers in the tertiary sector who continue to struggle with the effects of the pandemic.
Around 30,000 existing and prospective students will be provided FEE-HELP loan fee exemptions till the end of the year.
According to ITECA, in March 2020, there were 494,806 primary student visa holders in Australia. The number dropped to 317,940 in April 2021, making international education support critical.
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