ECT course cost to go down as Government announces Tertiary reform
Those choosing to study a range of University courses in areas of expected employment growth, including early childhood education, will pay less for their degree following an announcement late last week by Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.
Incentives were announced on Friday, designed to push students to make “more job-relevant decisions about their education”.
Students who choose courses which correspond to careers which are suffering, or are predicted to suffer from, employment shortages, including early childhood education and care (ECEC) will be charged less for their courses, with those careers in most need – such as teaching, nursing, clinical psychology and English and languages, paying 46 per cent less than current costs.
Additional places and funding
An additional 39,000 university places will be made available by 2023 to meet the expected increase in demand for study, with the Government also announcing reforms to the higher education sector so that the student contribution and the Commonwealth contribution equals the cost of teaching that degree.
The Government will also provide $900 million for a National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund to incentivise universities to produce job-ready graduates that local industries and employers need.
“To power our post-COVID economic recovery, Australia will need more educators, more health professionals and more engineers, and that is why we are sending a price signal to encourage people to study in areas of expected employment growth,” Mr Tehan said.
The package will restructure higher education funding to better align the cost and revenue of a university degree, with around 60 per cent of students seeing a reduction or no change in their student contribution.
Course fees for current students will be grandfathered, with the new funding model applied to students who commence their studies from 2021, and will remain eligible for the Higher Education Loan Program.
Rural and regional support
In addition to the reduced costs for those choosing to study courses which meet employment demands, the Government also announced an additional $400 million to increase opportunities for regional, rural and remote students.
A range of incentives and funding provisions were outlined by Mr Tehan, including:
- $5,000 to students from outer regional and remote areas to help pay the relocation costs when they move to study a Certificate IV qualification or higher, as well as improvements to Fares Allowance, to make it easier for relocated students to travel home during their first year of study.
- $500 million to universities for programs that support Indigenous, regional and low SES students.
- $48.8 million to fund research collaboration between regional universities, industry and other higher education partners.
- $21 million to establish additional Regional University Centres throughout Australia.
- 3.5 per cent growth in additional Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding to regional and remote university campuses.
- Demand-driven funding to support more Indigenous students from regional and remote communities to go to university.
The regional, rural and remote education initiatives represent a key part of the Government’s delivery of the recommendations made in the National Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy, with Mr Tehan saying that “every Australian should have access to a world-class education, no matter where they live”.
Positive feedback received from broader sector
The announcement was well received by both the tertiary sector and the ECEC sector, with the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) saying the cost reduction for studying teaching, which is projected to shift from approximately $9,600 to $3,700 a year, makes teaching “an extremely attractive and more affordable university study option.”
CEO for ELACCA, Elizabeth Death, made reference to the ongoing challenges in meeting requirements for early childhood teachers (ECTs) in all service types, saying the sector is “crying out” for more quality graduates to pursue a career in early childhood teaching.
“Given the ongoing demand for ECTs, graduates will virtually be guaranteed a job in a career that makes a significant difference in lifelong education, health, wellbeing and employment outcomes for children,” she added.
The current graduate rate of approximately 3,000 ECTs, is well below what is needed to sustain high-quality early learning, Ms Death said.
Regional Universities Network Chair Professor Helen Bartlett welcomed the special focus on assisting students from rural and remote Australia to attend University, saying the guaranteed bachelor-level Commonwealth supported places for Indigenous students are “particularly welcome”.
University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE said the reforms will support his institution to strengthen the focus on domestic students, while Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Greg Craven said that increasing the number of domestic students that universities can enrol will “help to accommodate the dual surge in demand from the ‘Costello baby boom’ and current economic conditions”.
To learn more about the changes announced for rural and remote prospective students, please see here. More information about the course which will become cheaper as a result of Mr Tehan’s announcement is available here.