SUBJECTS: Job-ready graduates, International students
Mark Levy: He’s on the line right now. Minister, good afternoon.
Dan Tehan: Afternoon Mark. How are you?
Levy: I’m very well. Lovely to talk to you, as always. I was watching your address earlier today. Just run my listeners through the reasoning for today’s announcement.
Tehan: Well, what we want to do is make sure that young Australians are studying in the areas where we know the jobs of the future will be. COVID-19 is going to have the biggest economic shock on our economy since the Great Depression, so it’s absolutely vital that young Australians have the skills from their education to be able to take up those jobs that we know will be there, and those jobs are in areas like nursing, in clinical psychology. One of the things we found from the bushfires was we couldn’t send those professional counsellors out into the regions to be able to provide that assistance. We know they’ll be in English, in languages, in ag, in maths, in science, in IT. So, what we’ve incentivised, through dropping the price of a degree in those areas, is for students to look and think about those degrees, because we know that’s where the jobs will be.
Levy: Minister, given the universities at the moment seem to be crying poor, do you think this will help or hinder them at the moment?
Tehan: This will help. This puts another 38,000 places into the system. What we’ve said today is that we will provide CPI index growth for the sector going forward. So, we want to ensure that the jobs are going to be able to be filled by graduates who have the skills in the right places, and we’re going to work with the university sector to make sure that’s what we achieve. So, I think, this is a real positive, because it enables our universities to focus on domestic Australian students and making sure that they’re skilling them for the future.
Levy: I have heard, Minister, some criticism. Some people suggesting, oh well, the Government thinks the arts aren’t as valuable as, say, architecture and languages. What’s your response to them?
Tehan: Well, we do think the arts are valuable, but we want students to think not in a siloed form that, you know, I should just do this arts degree. We want them to think, well, if I’m going to do an arts degree, do information technology, because we know there’ll be jobs in the digital economy. Or, do a language, because that’ll help with your employability. So, we want to ensure that students are thinking more broadly, and always are conscious of the fact that this is going to be a tough employment market because of COVID-19. So, we really need them to have the skills in the right places to be able to take the jobs on that we know will be there.
Levy: And, I suppose it makes students sit down and actually think about their future too, Minister, because how many people and examples have we heard of where, you know, someone goes and enrols in university, they complete their degree, but then they never use it, so they end up in a different career path. So, I think it’s important for them to sit down and think out their future given the testing times, and where those jobs actually are at the moment.
Tehan: You’re absolutely right, Mark. And, that’s why we wanted to send a very clear signal. Please think about the areas of study you’re going to undertake, because when it’s a tough employment market, you need to have the skills in the right place. And, we think, by focusing on teaching and nursing and clinical psychology and agriculture and maths and architecture and IT and engineering, that’s where the jobs are going to be, and if we can get our students concentrated on making sure that that’s the areas of studies they do, we know that not only will there be jobs for them as we come out of the coronavirus pandemic, but they will drive our economy and drive further jobs growth. And, if our young people, if we can harness them and their energy as we come out of this pandemic, I know that we can get our economy back to where it was before, and put it in an even stronger position.
Levy: Alright. I’ll get to international students in just a second, but a question leading up to that is, of course, talking about a timeframe. How long are you putting these rules and regulations in place, as far as charges and fees for some courses at university?
Tehan: So, all existing students are, will be grandfathered. So, the changes will come in as of next year. But, those who will benefit from the changes will benefit next year. So, we’ve made sure for those who would be worse off, they’re grandfathered. For those who benefit from them, from next year, if you’re doing nursing or teaching, you will see a reduction in your student contribution. So, we’ve designed it to make sure that those students who had already made the choice, that they’re not impacted. So, we want it so that students beginning next year will look and go, okay, well, I do need to make sure that I’ve got the skills that I’ll need into the future.
Levy: Alright. One last one. It’s on international students. So, the restrictions on them, when they’re allowed to re-enter the country, because, you know, you’ve got to understand too, Minister, that there are some wealthy families overseas and students that may have the sort of money to be spending $14,500 on a university course. There’ll be a lot of people saying, well, that makes it easier for them, because they can afford it, whereas our Australian kids can’t afford to enrol in these courses. Are there restrictions as far as that is concerned?
Tehan: So, what we have to remember is that no international student takes the place of an Australian student, and when it comes to Australian students, they don’t have to pay a cent upfront. So, what they can do is undertake their degree and, then, once they start earning $46,000 after they’ve finished their degree, they start to repay it. So, we have a very, very good system, it’s called FEE-HELP, for our students here, and the cost of our degrees here in Australia for law, for arts, for commerce, is below the cost of similar degrees in the United Kingdom and the United States. So, our system is very fair when it comes to allowing students to study in the areas that they want to.
Levy: Having said all of that, though, you say that no international student takes the place of an Australian student, but if an international student comes to this country next year that can afford, say, $14,500, what’s stopping them from taking the position of an Australian student?
Tehan: Well, the place that they would take would be additional to the places of the Australian student. So, what the universities do is just expand the number of courses that they have on offer. They bring in new teachers, new academics, to teach those students. So, what was announced today is solely around domestic students, and for international students, they’re separate, and they do not take the place of an Australian student. So, these 39,000 new places, expanding to 100,000 new places, are solely for Australian students.
Levy: Alright. I’m glad you cleared that up for me, Minister. It’s been a busy day. Thanks so much.
Tehan: Thanks Mark. Always a pleasure.
Levy: Well done mate. Dan Tehan, Minister for Education, following his announcement at the Press Club.