May 16, 2021

A Heavy Budget Lifeline for Struggling International Student Sector

Who will get $53 million federal budget?

Private higher education institutes, VET colleges and English language schools will share in a $53 million federal budget lifeline to fund an extra 5000 short course places, adapt their business models and avoid costly registration fees to help the sector survive without international students.

Many private colleges were forced to shed jobs or shutter their operations over the past year as border closures hit overseas student numbers, prompting the sector to plead for a rescue package from the federal government.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge will on Friday respond to this call with a package aimed at helping colleges survive the coming months amid uncertainty about when Australia’s borders will reopen for international students.

The measures will include $26 million to fund 5000 course places for Australian students across 100 colleges known as “non-university higher education providers”, which typically enrol high numbers of international students. The government will spend another $17.7 million to waive registration fees for colleges, English language schools and up to 3500 VET providers until December.

“Many non-university providers have seen revenue decline very sharply and without some support, they may close or lose serious capacity,” Mr Tudge said. “The package is measured and targeted at those who need it most while borders are closed.”

The federal government will also offer grants of up to $150,000 for English language colleges to expand their delivery of online courses to grow their offshore enrolments as part of a new $9.4 million fund. Eligibility guidelines will be finalised by July 1, but applicants will be required to prove a decline in turnover due to border closures and outline their attempts to adapt their businesses.

Mr Tudge said the grants would “encourage providers to take advantage of growing domestic student numbers and deliver more education online to international students offshore”.

The year-long border closure has wiped about $10 billion from Australia’s lucrative international education sector, which was worth $40 billion to the economy in 2019. But the hardest-hit segment has been the private “ELICOS” colleges – an acronym for the schools that offer English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Studentswhich are exclusively attended by international students.

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