The university has warned the federal government guarantees that the level of funding available would not be enough to prevent 21,000 layoffs in the next six months, when falling international student earnings hit Australia’s third largest export sector.
On Sunday the education minister, Dan Tehan, announced the federal government would guarantee $ 18 billion in funding for universities this year, even if their domestic enrollments fell, and provide $ 100 million in regulatory fee assistance for the tertiary education sector, including private vocational education and training.
Tehan told reporters in Canberra that a funding guarantee would “give ballast” to the university, which would also benefit from an eight-year extension to repay HELP loans if they experience a shortage of registered students.
Universities have called for more generous support packages, such as Labor warns some of the brink of collapse and the federal government excludes this sector from the lower threshold offered to charities to access employer subsidies of $ 130 billion.
The Chair of the University of Australia, Deborah Terry, welcomed the announcement as a “first step” but warned that even with guarantees there would be a difficult road ahead.
“We estimate 21,000 jobs in Australian University will leave in the next six months, “he said.
“Without guarantee [commonwealth grant scheme] and funding HELP that figure will be even higher.
“Each university has cut overall costs through a very large reduction in operational expenses, suspension of vital capital work, and a reduction in the salaries of senior staff.”
“However, this will not be enough to cover what we conservatively estimate to be a decrease in revenues of between $ 3 billion and $ 4.6 billion.”
Green education spokesman Mehreen Faruqi said the university sector needed “more than just life support”, accusing the government of failing universities, staff, and students “in times of crisis.”
“Universities have been forced to become food banks by governments that refuse to give desperate international students any form of income support,” he said.
Labor is calmer in its response. Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers said the opposition would “check the details” of the package.
On Wednesday the University of Sydney revealed to his staff that they expected to lose $ 470 million This year.
Chancellor of the Australian National Union, former foreign minister Julie Bishop, told the Australian Guardian that despite a 40% decrease in its income ANU is likely to lose its work guard program because its income exceeds $ 1 billion, at which a 50% higher threshold point applies.
Tehan suggested universities could be beneficiaries of Australians who lost their jobs or were stuck at home because of Covid-19 restrictions. He announced the government would “cut the price of degrees and diplomas in short courses, to enable people, rather than eat on Netflix, to eat on learning”, including courses such as nurses and allied health.
“So we also want our university to take advantage of this opportunity … to become world leaders in short courses, world leaders in so-called micro credentials.”
Tehan said the support package was aimed at universities that had experienced a decline in the number of domestic students, but there were ongoing discussions between the government of New South Wales and universities in the state to provide “some types of financial loans” for those who suffered a decline the number of students in the country. international student.
Tehan thanked universities for offering trouble payments to international students, including a $ 25 million welfare fund from Deakin University, and said such a scheme was on the agenda for the next state and regional education council meeting.
“We have asked officials to go and see what kind of mechanism can be done to help support international students through coronavirus.”
Tehan noted the federal government had allowed second, third and fourth year international students to access their pension funds and changed visa conditions to allow them to work longer hours in the frontline sector including the care of the elderly and supermarkets.
Terry said the university would continue to look for low-interest loans from banks and the state government, which would “help reduce layoffs”, and maintain online teaching and research, but repeated calls for more federal support.
“Many of our students struggle to pay rent and buy food,” he said. “Universities offer crisis support, but more will be needed.
“Our university and students will play an important role in national recovery. With government support, we hope to overcome this crisis and start working to rebuild. “
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