Under changes announced today by Education Minister Dan Tehan, most students will pay around 20 per cent less for their science, engineering and IT degrees.
Professionals Australia CEO Gordon Brock welcomed the Government’s commitment to creating an extra 39,000 student places by 2023 and 100,000 more places by 2030 but warned that the investment in university STEM degree places needed to happen alongside a broader commitment to STEM investment.
“There are abundant opportunities for investment in STEM that will, as part of a strategically directed package, ensure STEM skills will underpin our health as a nation and ensure our capacity to rebuild a growing, competitive Australian economy as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis”, he said.
“As well as our universities and research being recognised as vital ways of lifting productivity and creating jobs, new companies, new industries and breakthroughs, opportunities exist for investment in driving private research investment as well as strategic government investment in areas of competitive strength and national priority. We need to ensure a level of policy and funding certainty to generate a focus on finding solutions to long-term issues rather than a focus on short-term outcomes.
“We need to support programs that foster close entrepreneurial engagement between academia and industry and to support the critical role of publicly-funded science and R&D organisations in delivering economic growth and development such as the CSIRO, the CRC program and the medical research institute sector.
“We need investment in emerging knowledge-based industries like biotechnology, communications technologies and advanced manufacturing and providing competitive advantages to established industries like agriculture and resources.
“We also need to invest in training and professional development for STEM professionals to ensure an agile and well-trained workforce that can address the challenges we face as a nation as we emerge from the pandemic. It is vital that we provide targeted support for particular segments impacted by the pandemic including women in STEM. Overall, women’s under-representation in STEM fields is well established and the research is showing that the disparity may widen with the pandemic.
“Advanced science directly underpins about 14 per cent of Australia’s economic activity and when the flow-on effects are taken into account, STEM fields amount to about 26 per cent of Australia’s economic activity or $330 billion a year. Science and technology are without doubt part of the solution,” he said.
“The announcement today shows that Government understands that engineering, science and IT professionals can play a central role Australia’s health and economic recovery over the longer term but we need it to be part of a broader commitment if we’re to really effectively address the complex challenges we face as a nation.”