SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and Higher Education Relief Package, Schools
Monique Wright: The Federal Government has given some relief to the higher education sector over the weekend, with a rescue package guaranteeing $80 billion, already budgeted, for domestic university students this year – that is, regardless of any fall in enrolments. There will also be $100 million in regulatory relief, and 20,000 places available in short-term nursing, teaching, health, IT and science courses – all at cut-price rates. Joining us this morning is Education Minister Dan Tehan. Good morning to you, Minister. Thanks so much for being with us. Listen, your package has been widely praised and supported, but, even with the support, universities are saying that they are expecting a decline in revenue of more than $3 billion, 21,000 jobs – it’s huge, isn’t it? Why have you not extended those funds to international students, to encourage them to continue studying here?
Dan Tehan: Well, we have, obviously, 72 per cent of our international students are here, and are studying. So, this was specifically designed for those Australians who have had their lives turned upside down as a result of the coronavirus. We want to give them the opportunity to re-skill or embark on a new career in these areas, where we know there will be work post the pandemic. So, nursing, counselling, in agriculture – all these areas we’re going to need people – so, we want to ensure that people can get the skills during the next six months. These are a world first in these short-term diploma certificates. We’re expanding, also, graduate certificates, and we’re encouraging as many people as possibly can to think about, ‘Okay, how can I re-skill? Or, how can I change direction when it comes to my career?’, so that we have the workforce that we’ll need to help us emerge from the pandemic.
Wright: So, for the people sick of bingeing on Netflix, you’ve given them something to do – binge on studying. I just want to ask you one last question before you go, and Victorian students will be going back to school on Wednesday. Will you be giving a clear, national guideline for all schools in term two?
Tehan: Absolutely. The clear, national guideline is that we want schools to be open, so that those parents who need to work can have their children supervised safely while they learn, or for those vulnerable children – where it’s much safer for them to be at school studying – schools have to be open to cater for these students. That’s the national guideline. That’s the recommendation from the chief medical panel, which is made up of the Federal Chief Medical Officer, and all his state and territory counterparts. We want schools open for those parents who need to work, and also for those children where it’s much safer for them to be at school learning.
Wright: Alright. Dan Tehan, we appreciate your time. Thank you.