International education providers hit hard by COVID-19 will have access to a $37 million (US$26.6 million) federal government boost in an attempt to win back students next year.
The new measures would see almost $28 million (US$20 million) given in regulatory fee relief, while more than $9 million (US$6.4 million) provided in grants would go to institutions offering English language intensive courses for overseas students.
The new settings will also extend measures to protect the post-study work rights of international students and extend the temporary graduate visa from two to three years for masters by coursework graduates.
“This will help ensure the rapid return of international students,” Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said. “It provides clear incentives for institutions and students and ensures students are not disadvantaged from being prevented from coming to Australia earlier.”
It is considered as part of the federal government’s plan to revive the nation’s $10 billion (US$7.6 billion) international student market, which had collapsed following the nationwide border closure in response to the pandemic.
Australian universities shed at least 17,300 jobs in 2020 and lost an estimated $1.8 billion (US$1.3 billion) in income from international students compared to the previous year, according to figures released on Feb. 3 by Universities Australia, the nation’s peak body for the sector.
The funding boost comes three days after the government announced visa holders, including international students and skilled workers, would be able to travel to Australia without travel exemption from Dec. 1.
An estimated 162,000 student visas will be issued, while about 140,000 international students stranded overseas are being encouraged to return to Australian campuses next year.
Only fully vaccinated travellers are allowed to enter the border, with Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory not requiring quarantine for overseas visitors.
However, those who can prove they have not been vaccinated for medical reasons and children under 12 can travel to Australia under the new rules.
Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said businesses would not be able to find workers and keep their doors open if the borders were not lifted.
“You can’t employ hundreds of Australians on a construction job if you don’t have a surveyor and you can’t deliver an infrastructure pipeline without engineers. Our education and training system is building a strong pipeline of talent for Australia, but it can’t deliver highly skilled workers overnights,” Westacott noted.
Meanwhile, Australian Industry Group Chief executive Innes Willox believed the return of skilled visa holders and students would “expose the ongoing inconsistencies with our state borders and quarantine rules.”
“The majority of other countries have opened to the world more quickly than us, and we are competing with one arm tied behind our back,” he said.
As Australia’s economic recovery continues, the Morrison government is also making it easier for highly skilled migrants to remain in Australia to continue working in critical sectors.
This includes improved access to permanent residence for Existing Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders in the short-term stream and Legacy Temporary Work Skilled (subclass 457) visa holders who no longer meet the age requirement.
“This is a special concession recognising those highly skilled migrant workers who chose to stay in Australia throughout the pandemic while continuing to address Australia’s acute shortages. This allows them to stay here, with a pathway to Australian citizenship,” said Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke.
There are currently about 20,000 people who may benefit from these arrangements.