Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Australian Budget to Popularize Shorter Courses at Private Providers and Online Learning

The 2021‑22 Federal Budget contained some measure related to higher education. Of particular interest are two relatively small amounts for increased short courses and offshore education:

"$26.1 million over four years from 2021-22 to assist non-university higher education providers to attract more domestic students through offering 5,000 additional short course places in 2021

• $9.4 million in 2021-22 to provide grants of up to $150,000 to eligible higher education and English language providers to support innovative online and offshore education delivery models"

From Budget Paper Number 2, Part 1: Receipt Measures, Australian Government, 18 May 2021, URL:

Short Courses Opening Up Higher Education to Private Providers?

The "short courses" referred to are not that short, being bachelor and graduate certificates, which require one semester (about 12 weeks full time) to complete. These have proved popular with students and I think they are a good idea. But I am not sure universities like students getting the idea a six months course will do to get a job, rather than a three year degree. Also universities will have to cope with students turning up years later and ask for a semester's credit off a degree for having completed a certificate. This is not unreasonable as the certificates, at least the initial ones, were created by universities repackaging courses from existing degrees.

However, what might cause universities most concern is that this additional funding is only for non-universities. Apart from direct competition for students, this may create a demand for students from these non-universities for credit at universities. 

Innovative online and offshore education delivery models?

The small allocation of funding for "innovative online and offshore education delivery models" might be useful beyond the English language providers it is targeted at. Australian education providers have a problem with international students unable to get to Australia, due to COVID-19.  This may become worse, far worse, if current relations with China deteriorate further. Australian higher education providers, not just for English courses, need to urgently find new ways to deliver programs and to new markets. Australian universities also need to provide more attractive flexible delivery methods, as students do not want to come to campus every day, and may decide to study elsewhere. 

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