English language schools and non-university higher education providers will be getting a $53 million (US$41.2 million) package to support the businesses as they struggle without international student revenue.
The support package will encourage providers to shift their business models to focus on Australian students and help expand their courses for overseas students.
“Many non-university providers have seen revenue decline very sharply, and without some support, they may close or lose serious capacity,” Education Minister Alan Tudge said. “The package is measured and targeted at those who need it most while borders are closed.”
The package will provide targeted support in four main areas. It will help create 5,000 short course places, create an innovation fund, waive fees, and provide additional loan fee exemptions.
Almost half of the total support package will be funding an extra 5,000 short courses places in any discipline at 100 eligible providers, strictly for domestic students.
Additional help for domestic students includes reducing loan help fees. Those who attended these education providers previously needed to pay a 25 percent loan help fee, while university students paid no fees for their HECS loans.
From July 1, $17.7 million in fees and charges will also be waived until the end of the year.
The remaining $9.4 million will be used to establish an innovation fund, where the government will offer grants up to $150,000 to help providers expand their offshore and online courses.
“The innovation grants will encourage providers to take advantage of growing domestic student numbers and deliver more education online to international students offshore,” Tudge said.
English language providers, which almost exclusively gain enrolments from international students, were the education institutions hit the hardest by border closures.
Tudge said that February data showed enrolments of non-university education providers dropped 17 percent while university enrolments dropped 12 percent. However, English language providers experienced a 67 percent decrease in enrolments.
Troy Williams, chief executive of Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), said they had been working with the government and were pleased to secure these outcomes.
However, he noted that the industry had already suffered from over 20,000 job losses, even while JobKeeper had kept the sector alive.
Many of those jobs have come back thanks to government investment in higher education and vocational education programs,” Williams told The Age. “However, the situation for the [intensive English language course provider] sector remains dire. That’s what makes this investment so important.”