Government Higher Education Package is Smoke and Mirrors

The ‘relief’ package for higher education announced today by Education Minister Dan Tehan will do nothing to address the anticipated multi-billion shortfall in university income this year, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said today.

“The $18 billion that Dan Tehan is trumpeting is already budgeted for,” NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said today. “It’s the government funding for domestic students that universities were already expecting. None of it is new money.”

“This will not plug the gaping hole in university finances left by the drop in international student income,” Dr Barnes said.

“The additional 20,000 short course places initiative is unlikely to include any additional funding other than what it costs to run them. We dispute the Minister’s claim that this funding will offset universities’ losses from international students.”

The $100 million in regulatory relief is welcomed, but doesn’t make up for a multi-billion dollar shortfall, Dr Barnes added.

“We’re extremely disappointed that the government will not enable universities to access the Jobkeeper subsidy. Without it, tens of thousands of jobs in the sector are still threatened.”

“We’re also disappointed that the government has effectively abandoned international students, who may face being stranded here with no money and no income. We’re happy to take their money in the good times, to the point where it made up over 26% of university income in 2018. But we say ‘sorry, you’re on your own’ in the bad times? This is shameful behaviour,” Dr Barnes said.

Dr Barnes said that the NTEU will continue its discussions with employers on ways to protect jobs and the higher education sector itself, in the absence of any meaningful government assistance.

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