Humanities degrees will more than double in cost while other university courses will get cheaper in a funding overhaul ahead of an expected boom in enrolments.
With young people the worst hit by the coronavirus unemployment crisis, many are expected to turn to study to improve their prospects in 2021.
Some 20,000 Grade 12 graduates who would normally take a gap year are also likely to go straight into university because of travel limitations.
Education minister Dan Tehan will on Friday outline the federal government’s plan to encourage students to pursue the degrees it says are more likely to lead to jobs.
Students will be encouraged to switch courses or diversify their studies by taking up the significantly cheaper degrees.
Under the shake-up a three-year humanities degree would more than double in cost, from about $20,000 now to $43,500 while law degrees would jump from $44,620 now to $58,000.
However agriculture and maths fees would drop from nearly $28,600 to $11,100.
Fees would also be cut for teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, science, health, architecture, IT, engineering and English courses.
“We are encouraging students to embrace diversity and not think about their education as a siloed degree,” Mr Tehan will say in a speech at the National Press Club.
“So if you want to study history, also think about studying English. If you want to study philosophy, also think about studying a language. If you want to study law, also think about studying IT.”
After previously freezing funding at 2018 levels, places will be increased by 39,000 over the next three years, rising to 100,000 more by 2030.
“We are facing the biggest employment challenge since the Great Depression,” Mr Tehan is expected to say.
“And the biggest impact will be felt by young Australians. They are relying on us to give them the opportunity to succeed in the jobs of the future.”
Mr Tehan is expected to promise there will be no $100,000 degrees under the plan and existing students won’t pay more.
However the National Union of Students condemned the government’s plan, saying universities were not “job factories”.
“While the lowering of fees in specific degrees is a positive opportunity for some students, this move is at the expense of hundreds of thousands of young people who have chosen to study a degree that the government doesn’t deem worthy enough,” the union said in a statement.
Future of welfare
As the coronavirus throws hundreds of thousands more people out of work, there are growing calls to reshape Australia’s welfare system.
The government is examining the best way to balance its JobKeeper wage subsidy and doubling of the JobSeeker unemployment payment beyond their scheduled September finish.
Australia’s unemployment rose to 7.1 per cent in May as another 227,000 people lost their jobs.
Youth unemployment has soared to 16.1 per cent, with young people’s jobs making up 45 per cent of those lost in May.
The latest jobless figures are the worst since October 2001 and would be far grimmer were it not for another big fall in workforce participation.
But economists believe the sharp rise in the jobless rate still has further to go, particularly when coronavirus support measures are unwound.
The jobless rate has been skewed by the JobKeeper wage subsidy while many people have also pulled out of the labour market completely, so they are not registered as unemployed.
The ABS says if all the 835,000 who had lost their job in the past two months were still actively seeking work, the jobless rate would have been 11.3 per cent.
JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy anticipated that changes to JobKeeper and JobSeeker eligibility, following the review being undertaken by Treasury, would force unemployment higher.
“We retain the view that unemployment will continue to push higher, peaking just above nine per cent in (the second half of 2020),” Mr Kennedy said in a note to clients.
Victoria on alert ahead of easing of restrictions
Victorian authorities will keep their guard up ahead of a scheduled further easing of coronavirus restrictions as the state weathers a worrying rise in positive cases.
Community transmission remains a concern in Victoria where 18 cases were recorded on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 1780.
One day after the biggest increase in more than a month, Victoria had six new cases from returned travellers, one case linked to a known outbreak, eight discovered through to community testing and three more that remain under investigation.
There are now 81 active cases in the state, less than a week away from a wider relaxation of social distancing measures.
Victoria’s active cases are increasing – they were 66 on May 25 – while nationally they have fallen from 484 on that date to 400 on Thursday.
“Monday is not that far away. The plan is to continue to ease those restrictions on Monday, but a lot can happen in five days,” Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Annaliese van Diemen said.
Tasmania is winding back coronavirus restrictions on aged care homes as the island state edges closer to a border announcement.
From Monday, up to two people will be able to visit homes at one time, with multiple visits allowed in one day.
Residents will be permitted to leave facilities to go on trips with friends and family, while services including hairdressers and allied health professionals will be allowed in.
Those aged under 16 will also be able to visit aged care homes.
Tasmania is free of active COVID-19 cases, with the last recorded case coming more than a month ago.
The Northern Territory government will reopen its borders to interstate travellers on July 17 to restart a demoralised economy that has been in hibernation since it was shut down three months ago.
Thursday marked 28 days since the last of the 30 people to have COVID-19 in the Territory recovered, prompting Chief Minister Michael Gunner to announce a reopening of borders four weeks in advance.
There were worst-case predictions at one stage of 2000 Territorians possibly being killed by the disease, but there have been no deaths yet out of the 102 in Australia.
Territory residents and people who come to the NT from other states will no longer have to go into quarantine for 14 days, although international arrivals still will.
Australia had 21 new cases on Thursday, with Victoria’s 18, NSW two and WA one, lifting the country’s active cases to 412.
In total there have been 7391 cases with 412 still active and no cases in SA, Tasmania, ACT or the NT.
The national death toll is 102: NSW 50, Victoria 19, Tasmania 13, WA nine, Queensland six, SA four, ACT three. (Two Qld residents who died in NSW have been included in the official tolls of both states).