Subjects: Regional education, new university places.
JAC UNDERWOOD: We welcome to Live and Local now Assistant Education Minister, Senator Anthony Chisholm. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Good afternoon, Jac. Good to be with you.
JAC UNDERWOOD: Good to have you. Let's have a little chat about the 20,000 places - this was an election promise that came through for students, particularly in rural areas as placements into university. Tell us how it works.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, so that's 20,000 additional university places that we announced during the election campaign, and they will be allocated over the next two years, so to start in 2023 and then in 2024. And that's at a cost of almost $500 million over the next four years. So, a significant outlay. And we want to have a focus on those backgrounds that are underrepresented in university education. So, rural remote areas, low socioeconomic backgrounds, First Nations people, first in family, people with disabilities. So, trying to encourage or give opportunity to as many of those people as possible, enrolling in Uni. And there will also be a focus on those additional places trying to tackle the skills shortages that we have across the country as well. And I'm sure - the travel I've done they are particularly acute in regional and remote areas, along with the housing issue as well.
JAC UNDERWOOD: Research shows - research conducted by universities, in particular Charles Sturt University, shows that students who study in regional areas tend to stay and work and live and use their skills in those regional areas. There's a little bit of conversation about the worry that these placements will take students out of regional areas into metro universities, meaning that they might not come back and live in our areas. What would you say to that?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: What I'd say is that certainly is an issue the government is well aware of, and it's one that I have personally experienced, particularly. I'm a Queensland Senator and I spend a lot of time in regional Queensland, and I've had universities in regional Queensland regularly reminding me of that fact. So, I understand that's an important balance for us to reach in terms of how these 20,000 additional places are allocated. But I would also say that - and I'm sure people who have lived in your region for a long time would know, but people have been leaving those towns to go to university for a long period of time now. But we want to get that balance right to ensure that there is those courses and spots available in regional areas, because we know that can lead to longer-term employment in those regions and particularly in those areas that we need in regional areas, the skills that we need in regional areas.
JAC UNDERWOOD: And I do note that you have brought out scholarships up to about $15,000 per year to offer domestic and international students to specifically study in regional areas.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: That's right and we think this is an important opportunity for us. As you would know, the international student market was obviously – took a significant hit during Covid. That's taking some time to come back. So, we see these scholarships as an important part of that, but also, they're part of fixing that skill shortage in parts of regional Australia at the same time. So, we think that these scholarships for regional Australia will be one that will be a great outcome for regional areas and again, they'll be matched up to where we see the shortage in terms of the national skills priority list at the same time.
JAC UNDERWOOD: The skills shortage – skilled worker shortage, rather, is a multifaceted problem. I suppose that a certain element of it does come down to education. The previous Morrison Government introduced subsidies for STEM courses and humanities, costing students more to undertake. Now, some say this shows underrepresentation of the importance of arts and humanities. Is this decision being reviewed by the current government?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yes. Thanks, Jac. It's a good question and as an arts graduate myself, who likes to think I've made good use of my degree and benefited from it, and one of my colleagues who was in my class was Jim Chalmers, who's gone on to be the Treasurer. So, he's made this with his arts degree at the same time. I certainly value what an arts degree can provide. The feedback I've had from universities across the country on this is that there has been some outcomes from the Job Ready Graduate programme there have been beneficial and there have been some that have been detrimental. So, you may be aware that the Minister has said we are going to have a national accord with universities. I expect that this will be a significant part of that – what the future programme looks like going forward. So, as I said, there is some mixed views from universities, some good outcomes and bad outcomes, but I expect that the accord process will deal with all of those and ensure we have the best practice going forward so that we can encourage as many people from different backgrounds to go to university and do the courses that the country needs as well.
JAC UNDERWOOD: We’ll watch this space. Thank you so much for your time.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Thanks, Jac. Good to talk.
JAC UNDERWOOD: You too, see you. Assistant Education Minister there, Senator Anthony Chisholm.