Universities Australia Chair Professor Deborah Terry said: “We welcome the Government’s decision to pay CGS to projected enrolment figures even if student numbers drop in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19.”
“This assurance signals the Government’s confidence in the sector and its crucial role in national recovery and is an important first step.”
Professor Terry said Australian students would also benefit from the new, short study, online courses in a range of disciplines including nursing, teaching, health, IT and sciences that would be offered by some universities as a way of boosting skills in a time of great need.
“Universities will be working very hard to ensure these six-month long courses are ready to commence in May. They will give people essential skills needed to help rebuild the Australian economy once the pandemic is over.”
“These new students will join hundreds of thousands receiving tuition online until it is safe to return to the classroom.”
“It is also good to see regulatory relief with a deferred additional payment scheme from the regulator TEQSA, at a time when universities are under mounting budget pressure.”
But Professor Terry warned that even with guaranteed CGS and HELP funding, there will be a tough road ahead.
“We estimate 21,000 jobs at Australian universities will go within the next six months. Without guaranteed CGS and HELP funding that figure would have been even higher,” Professor Terry said.
“Individual universities are already cutting costs across the board through very substantial reductions in operational spending, deferral of vital capital works, and reductions in senior staff salaries.”
“However, this will be nowhere near enough to cover what we conservatively estimate as a revenue decline of between $3 billion and $4.6 billion.”
Professor Terry said universities will continue to seek low interest loans from banks and State Governments.
”Loans will help reduce lay-offs, and would assist us in maintaining online teaching functions and vital research—including into a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment—throughout the crisis.”
She said Universities Australia would continue to work with the government to support international and local students who have lost their part-time jobs.
“Many of our students are struggling to pay rent and buy food. Universities are offering crisis support, but more will be required.”
“Our universities and our students will play a vital role in national recovery. With Government support, we hope to ride out this crisis and get to work on rebuilding,” Professor Terry said.
“Australia will need even more new ideas, new skills and new jobs to power economic and community recovery. Universities are the engine rooms of that renewal.”
“We look forward to examining the fine details of the Government’s announcement in coming days.”