The federal government has allocated a $53 million fund in a bid to help the international students sector by offering the latter an additional 5,000 short course places, adapting individual business models, and avoiding expensive registration fees.
The Education Minister, Alan Tudge, responded to the situation with a package designed to help colleges and universities in the upcoming months until a decision on international students’ return will be determined, Erudera.com reports.
Previously, many higher education institutions were forced to cut staff or shut operations due to border closures as part of restrictions against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan is to utilize $26 million for 5,000 places at different courses across 100 colleges, which usually enroll a higher number of international students. Another $17.7 million will be used for reducing the registration fees for colleges, for English language schools, and up to 3,500 Vocational Education and Training providers until December.
“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,” Tudge said.
An additional $150,000 will be allocated for English language colleges to increase international enrolments as part of the new $9.4 million funds.
Applicants need to provide a decline document due to border closure and present their idea of adapting their businesses. Eligibility guidelines will be finalized by July 1.
The extended period of border closure had caused Australia’s international education to lose $10 billion in comparison to 2019, when the sector was evaluated to be $40 billion. The hardest-hit institutions are the private “ELICOS” colleges that offer English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students, which international students primarily attend.
According to the chief executive of Independent Tertiary Education Council, Troy Williams, the international education sector was depending on JobKeeper, whereas there were still more than 20,000 job losses by September.
“Many of those jobs have come back thanks to government investment in higher education and vocational education programs; however, the situation for the ELICOS sector remains dire. That’s what makes this investment so important,” Williams said.
Williams also said that the registration fees vary from $10,000 to more than $100,000 for large providers.
On the other hand, Minister Tudge last week advised the federal government to be ‘very cautious’ regarding international students’ return due to the high number of COVID-19 positive cases and possible transmission.
According to a yearly university report, several institutions have experienced a decrease in international students, with New South Wales and Victoria being the hardest hit.