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Australian university fees overhaul brings about a mixed reaction

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The Australian federal government says is overhauling the cost of university degrees to help graduates find jobs in industries it believes will see employment growth post COVID-19. Under the policy, the cost of degrees will be changed to incentivise students to enter industries that will drive job growth.

The COVID-19 travel restrictions and the slump in the labour market means the 2021 university enrolments are up, with an estimated 20,000 year 12 students less likely to take a gap year. Pre-pandemic modelling has shown 62 per cent of jobs growth over the next five years will be in health care, science and technology, education and construction.

The student fees for science and engineering degrees will drop by 20 per cent. There will be a bigger reduction of 46 per cent for teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, English and languages degrees.

The biggest decrease of 62 per cent will apply to agriculture and maths degrees.

The cheaper course prices will be accessible to new and currently enrolled students from next year. The increased course fees will not affect current students, who will have their fees frozen.

The federal government will be increasing the cap on university places, to allow for an extra 39,000 places for Australian students by 2023.

Dr Alex Wake, a senior journalism lecturer and President at the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia, says the announcement sends shockwaves through the humanities academic community.

"I have received several messages from Australians working overseas who have seen the announcements and they have been shocked and horrified by these announcements. That the culture wars as it is called are continuing to this extent in this country. I absolutely believe that this will stop people from all backgrounds from joining the industry at a tune when more than ever before we need to have full representation in news of the full cross-sections of Australians. If nothing else, we have learnt over the last few weeks with Black Lives Matter protests, we need a greater diversity of voices in the news media. And by more than doubling the cost of degrees it is going to stop people from applying to do this."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Find out what restrictions are in place for your state or territory.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at http://www.sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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