Covid-19 Australia: With a bold plan, Australian students could finally be back in university lecture halls

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With a daring plan, Australian students could finally be back in university lecture halls – with some suffering from a YEAR of online learning

  • Federal Education Minister wants universities to teach face-to-face again weer
  • Many university campuses have been closed since the start of the pandemic
  • Closed borders have left the industry billions out of pocket to students abroad

Federal Education Secretary Alan Tudge wants universities to return to face-to-face learning as soon as possible where coronavirus restrictions have been relaxed.

Tudge thinks there are too few university students on campus.

“I still hear from too many students or their parents telling me that their usual student experience has still not returned,” he told university leaders on Thursday.

“So for this year we need to focus our universities on how we can improve the classroom and learning experience for Australian students. Some do it brilliantly, but it should all be brilliant.’

Mr Tudge will also take a swipe at Vice Chancellors for ignoring the needs of Australian students.

Not having international students in Australia is estimated to cost the industry $18 billion a year (pictured, a quiet University of Sydney campus)

‘Over the past few months I’ve had almost every rector talk to me about research and international students, but not many about their ambitions for Australian students,’ he says.

Universities in Victoria have been forced to abandon campus classes and return to online education as the state’s coronavirus lockdown continues.

Labor believes Morrison’s government has lost the opportunity to use universities to rebuild Australia stronger during the pandemic.

Employment education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek will tell the Universities Australia conference in Canberra that the tertiary sector has received massive investment after World War II to support industry and boost innovation and jobs.

“The contrast with today couldn’t be more discouraging,” she will say.

“Instead of recognizing the value of education for our economic recovery, instead of increasing access and expanding capacity, this government is systematically destroying higher education in Australia.”

“I still hear from too many students or their parents telling me that their usual student experience has still not returned,” said the federal education minister.

She says this was demonstrated by universities, but not casinos, which were excluded from the JobKeeper wage subsidy program.

And the return of foreign students has been delayed due to the government’s “grieve over vaccination and quarantine”.

‘This year alone, the absence of international students will cost the Australian economy $18 billion.’

But the national tertiary sector dividend is broad, she says.

“You can’t have a strong, modern, diversified economy without a healthy university system.”

A shortage of places would leave many young Australians missing an opportunity to study, she says.

‘Labor recognizes this growing problem. And we are committed to working with universities to find the best way to solve this,” said Ms Plibersek.

“You’ll get the support you need to do what you do best: world-class education and world-class research.”

Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson said it had been a tumultuous time for the sector but student teaching and research continued.

“Border closures and wildfires have sent curricula online overnight, revenues have fallen and jobs have been lost that universities have been working on,” she said.

“This tumultuous period has illustrated more than ever why resilient universities are crucial to national recovery and prosperity.”

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