SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and Higher Education Relief Package
Jeremy Lee: Dan Tehan, good morning to you.
Dan Tehan: Morning, Jeremy. How are you?
Lee: Very well thanks. I don’t know if you've been working on the first line while you’ve been waiting, but, if you want to enter, feel free.
Tehan: I’ll leave that. You’ve got some very good entries already, and I think they sum it up pretty well. So, I’ll leave it to your listeners to keep piling those responses, Jeremy. They provided me with some very good lighter news while I was waiting.
Lee: Very good. Well, look, before we talk about what’s happening with schools, let’s talk about the announcement over the weekend regarding universities. So, an idea to what? Offer some, some short higher education courses? Just talk us through what’s been announced, and how it’s going to work.
Tehan: That’s right. There’ll be an offering of short diploma-style certificates, and, also, an expansion of graduate certificates. So, these are six-month courses. You could either use them to reskill, or you can use them to change careers, or just to start learning. And, we’re offering them at discount rates for nursing, teaching, counselling, English, maths, foreign languages, agriculture. So, if your life’s been turned upside down because of the coronavirus, and, you think, ‘Okay, I might want to change careers,’ then this is a real opportunity, for the next six months, to take on board one of these short courses. Other areas are allied health, IT, architecture and building, science and engineering, medical science, and environmental studies. So, these are areas we’ve identified we’re going to need people, because these are the jobs which are going to help us rebuild after the coronavirus. So, if anyone’s got an interest in studying during the next six months, these short courses provide you with that opportunity. They’ll start early May, and run for six months.
Lee: Now, how are they going to run, as well? I’m presuming this will be online courses, will they?
Tehan: All online. So, it’ll all be done online. So, you won’t need to physically attend a university. You’ll be able to do your lectures and your tutes online. And, one of the things that our higher education sector, our universities, have shown, they’ve been able to very innovatively move online. And, so, we’re incredibly confident that they will be able to do this. And, we can use this next six months to make ourselves a world leader in these short courses. It’s something that was discussed. We had a major report done on the Australian Qualifications Framework, and they, it suggested that we should move to what this, what they call, micro-credentialing, short courses. So, we’ve used these opportunities to say, ‘Alright, well, let’s push ahead with this, and let’s really give it a go for the next six months'. And, the universities have really welcomed this, and we’ve already got courses being developed as we speak, which will be ready to go in the early weeks of May.
Lee: Okay. And, to that end, how is that part of it working, then? Are you leaving it up to individual universities to decide what they want to offer, and how they’re going to go about doing it? Or, you, are you, sort of, trying to direct, I guess, who might offer what sort of course, to cover the ranges that you mentioned before?
Tehan: No. We’re leaving that up to the universities, and, already, they’ve identified areas where they’ve got good strengths, where they’ve got good industry connections, or good connections with various sectors of our economy, and they’re already developing that. So, for instance, Swinburne University have an online teaching certificate ready to go. So, for all those teachers who will be teaching online, if they want to upskill and do some professional development, they will be able to do one of these certificates at Swinburne University. Likewise, Western Sydney University are doing one in health administration. Obviously, there’s been huge demand right across our health network, so, anyone working in that sector who wants to upskill, could do it. And, in aged care, the University of South Australia are looking at doing something in the aged care area, so that anyone working in that area can upskill themselves. So, they might want to go into aged care administration, or, if you’re an aged care nurse, you might want to upskill. So, there’s some of the things, already, that the universities are developing.
Lee: So, some of these courses, obviously, will come with prerequisites. Sounds like it’s very much about reaffirming skills, or, as you say, improving on skills. They’re not necessarily courses for people who are coming to a particular topic completely cold, as it were.
Tehan: Oh, no. So, there will be two types of certificates. We’re expanding the graduate certificates, and that’s where you might need some prerequisites. But, for the diploma certificates, that area, you don’t need any prior learning. So, if you want to move into a new area, then you could do this through these diploma certificates. So, there’s really no prerequisites. You might have finished school 10 years ago, and just decided that you want to try an area of higher education for the first time. You can start by using those diploma certificates. And, that’s what it’s designed for, really, to cater right across the board for those who have never done higher education study, to those who might have done some and want to reskill in that area.
Lee: So, it’s available to everybody, then? You don’t have to meet any particular – apart from those prerequisites, where necessary – no other criteria that you have to meet, if you want to take one of these courses?
Tehan: No. That’s, that’s it. So, all you need to, all you need is the will and the initiative to use the next six months to want to either upskill or learn, and away you go. Just approach your university, and, then, obviously, you need to identify the area that you’re interested in, for instance. But, you know, there might be people who work in agriculture who want to use this time to upskill in a particular area of agriculture, so they could do that. It’s all areas where we think there’s going to be strong demand for workers into the future, and, that’s why we want to provide this opportunity for people to upskill or to relearn.
Lee: Okay. Now, university courses, of course, are not always terribly cheap, as well. What’s the financial side to this? Do the people pay upfront? Is there a, do you come away with a HELP debt, or, how does that work?
Tehan: Yeah. So, you’ll go up to the HELP, you’ll get a HELP loan. So, the, for six months, the nursing, teaching, counselling, English, maths, foreign languages, or agriculture, it’ll be $1,250, which you repay once you start earning. And, then, for allied health, other health, IT, architecture and building, science engineering, medical science, and environmental studies, it’s $2,500, which you repay over time, once you start earning a certain amount of money.
Lee: Okay. So, what are people going to come out at the other end then with? Obviously, you’re not coming out with a degree. But, what sort of a course? And, how, I don’t know, I mean, I guess the hope is that these are going to be very practical courses, by the sounds of things?
Tehan: That’s right. And, you will come out with either a diploma certificate or a graduate certificate. And, remembering you can do, what’s called, ‘rack or stack’, with your diploma certificate or your graduate certificate. So, you could use your diploma certificate to get a full diploma, over time, if you wanted to. Likewise, with a graduate certificate, you can use that to get a full graduate degree. So, this is a way of trialling something, which is very practical, in certain areas. And, then, if you want to, going on and getting a diploma, getting a grad, getting a graduate degree, or, ultimately, a master’s degree. So, it depends on the individual. It depends on what their, their wants and desires are.
Lee: Alright. Dan Tehan is here with us on Breakfast, ABC Victoria. Our Federal Education Minister, of course. Jeremy Lee with you this morning, here on ABC Victoria. Look, I guess, one question that pops up as well, is, why, obviously, a lot of this is very suited to universities, but, it sounds like some of it would also be suited to TAFE sector. Is our TAFEs involved in any way, here? Or, is this exclusively a university offering?
Tehan: No. So, many of our universities are what we call dual sector universities, so they do both that vocational education and higher education, so, they’ll use a mix of this. And, we’re also looking at doing some other things when it comes to vocational education, as well.
Lee: Now, I imagine the unis are, certainly, would be pretty keen on this, for a bit of a financial boost for them, as well, given they’ve, obviously, lost a lot of funding through, you know, international students, you know, the situation there surrounding the difficulties with a lot of international students.
Tehan: That …
Lee: Dan Tehan, we might have lost you. He might have gone into a lift. Dan Tehan, I’m not sure if you can hear us or not. We’ll see if we can get, he’s gone. We’ll see if we can get Dan Tehan back. It sounds like he was walking into a lift or something there, a moment ago.