The Morrison Government will provide more than $53 million of targeted support for international education providers most affected by COVID-19 border closures.
Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said the measures would benefit thousands of domestic and international students, and Australian businesses who support local jobs.
The measures will support those providers hardest hit by COVID-19 and encourage providers to refocus their business models on Australian students and expand online and offshore course offerings.
The $53.6 million package of support measures targeted to English language and non-university higher education providers includes:
- $26.1 million for an extra 5000 short course places in 2021-22, so non-university higher education providers can attract more Australian students.
- $9.4 million to start an innovation fund that will offer grants of up to $150,000 for providers to grow offshore and online delivery.
- $17.7 million to further extend the pause on fees and charges from CRICOS (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students), TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency), and ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority) until 31 December 2021.
- Further FEE-HELP loan fee exemptions for about 30,000 existing and prospective students until 31 December 2021.
As well, $7.1 million in administrative savings for the sector, with providers no longer required to report the receipt of fees each month.
“Our international border closures have been our single best defence in keeping Australians safe from COVID-19, but have obviously meant no new international students coming to Australia,” Minister Tudge said.
February data shows international student enrolments are down 12 per cent at universities, compared to a 17 per cent drop at non-university higher education providers (with some as high as 70 per cent) and a 67 per cent decline for English language providers.
“International students will be welcomed back when conditions allow, and these measures will support providers to maintain as much capacity as possible in the meantime,” Minister Tudge said.
“Many non-university providers have seen revenue decline very sharply and without some support, they may close or lose serious capacity.
“The package is measured and targeted at those who need it most while borders are closed.
“The innovation grants will encourage providers to take advantage of growing domestic student numbers and deliver more education online to international students offshore.
“A further $7.1 million reduction in administrative costs will benefit about 1,200 private international education providers, bringing total annual deregulation savings for the sector to $60.0 million.”
These measures build on the Government’s $47.5 million reduction in regulation costs for the education and training sector in 2020 as part of the Higher Education Relief Package.
Last year, the Government provided an extra billion dollars in research funding to the university sector as well as 30,000 more places.
The Government also provided $500 million for the JobTrainer Fund (which is being matched by states and territories) and $4 billion in wage subsidy support for apprentices and trainees.
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, said the VET sector had adapted well to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The continuation of Government assistance through fee relief will support sustainability for the VET sector and its recovery post-pandemic,” Minister Robert said.
“The planned move to cost recovery for both TEQSA and ASQA, scheduled to commence on 1 July 2021, has been delayed to 1 January 2022.”
Revised cost recovery arrangements for registrations on CRICOS, previously scheduled for introduction from 1 July, will also be delayed to 1 January 2022.
TEQSA’s cost recovery will be phased in over three years but will also include reductions to course accreditation fees for providers with less than 5,000 enrolled students to support innovation and market responsiveness in course design.
There will be further consultation with higher education and skills and training providers on CRICOS, TEQSA and ASQA’s revised cost recovery models.
Measures in detail:
Regulatory fee relief:
- $17.7 million will see domestic fees and charges collected by CRICOS, TEQSA and ASQA waived until 31 December 2021. These measures will formally take effect from 1 July 2021.
- Regulatory fee relief will apply across the tertiary and international education sector. No action is required from providers and fees will automatically be waived.
- This supports the ongoing operations of more than 3,500 training providers registered with ASQA as they deliver quality training to around four million students who access Australia’s VET system each year.
- Revised cost recovery arrangements for registrations on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS), previously scheduled for introduction from 1 July 2021, will also now commence from 1 January 2022.
- $9.4 million will establish an innovation grant fund to allow eligible private higher education and ELICOS providers registered on CRICOS to apply for up to $150,000 to change their business models to grow offshore and online delivery.
- There are 182 private ELICOS and private higher education providers delivering to international students with nearly 100,000 international enrolments.
- Eligibility guidelines will be released prior to the 1 July 2021 commencement of the program.
- Applicants will need to demonstrate the effect of border closures on business turnover, outline their efforts to adapt to the current operating environment, and demonstrate how they would benefit from the grant funding.
Short course places
- $26.1 million will fund an extra 5,000 short course places for domestic students at around 100 eligible non-university higher education providers (NUHEPs) in 2021- 22.
- Short courses will be offered in any discipline.
- This will support NUHEPs effected by the decline in international student enrolments to pivot their business to domestic delivery. Priority will be given to those registered on the CRICOS. An expression of interest will be released on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s website shortly.
FEE-HELP loan fee exemption
- Around 30,000 existing and prospective students will benefit from lower fees through the extension of FEE-HELP loan fee exemption until the end of 2021.
- Prior to COVID-19 adjustments, students at private non-university higher education providers paid a 25 per cent FEE-HELP loan fee, while HECS-HELP students who primarily attend public universities paid no fee.
- Subject to passage of legislation and IT system changes, FEE-HELP loan fee exemptions will commence from 1 July 2021. If the legislation has not passed by 1 July 2021, loan fees can be removed in retrospect once legislation has passed.