Most university students who choose science, technology, engineering and maths subjects in the future would pay less for their degrees under changes announced today by Education Minister Dan Tehan.
The proposed changes would cut the cost to students by 62 per cent for a maths degree and 20 per cent for science, IT and engineering degrees.
Science & Technology Australia President Associate Professor Jeremy Brownlie said stronger incentives for students to choose STEM subjects highlighted that STEM jobs in Australia are projected to grow significantly in coming years.
“Science and technology will be two of Australia’s strongest growth industries,” he said.
“Cutting the cost to university students of doing a STEM degree – or even taking a few STEM subjects as part of a broad-based education – will help to meet the demands of the future workforce.”
It is not yet clear what will happen to the overall level of funding for universities to teach STEM degrees and do STEM research under the package of measures.
Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert welcomed the Government’s stated intention to create an extra 39,000 student places by 2023 and 100,000 more places by 2030.
She said STA will carefully examine how such places would be funded, and how the series of announcements made by the Minister today will affect the STEM research and teaching operations of universities.
STA has previously called for a one-off boost for postgraduate research students hit hard by the impact of COVID-19.
STA is pleased to see the Government’s announcement that it intends to return to indexing all Commonwealth Grants Scheme funding by CPI.
The Minister said a $900 million National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund would have a strong focus on STEM industries. He said metrics would be developed with the university sector to boost the number of STEM graduates and reward formal research partnerships with industries and advanced apprenticeships.
“Many of the new jobs that will be created across our economy in coming years will need the type of analytical and technical skills taught in STEM subjects,” Ms Schubert said.
“Science and technology are the tools to help us transform Australia’s economy, so we’d say to anyone thinking of going to university: give STEM a go.”
Today’s announcements also include a commitment that any Indigenous student from a regional or remote area would be guaranteed a place at a public university.
STA would encourage the Government to extend this commitment to any Indigenous student from any part of Australia – noting Indigenous people make up 1.9 per cent of university enrolments but are 3.1 per cent of Australia’s working age population.
“We want to see many more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in STEM to grow the number of university-qualified Indigenous STEM professionals,” Ms Schubert said.
STA has consistently supported programs that help Indigenous, rural and regional and low SES students to get into university and to graduate.
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