There will be more than 1,000 new university scholarships on offer annually to local and international as the government attempts to disperse Australia’s growing population.
The scholarships – each worth $15,000 annually – feature as part of the government’s new population policy, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled on Wednesday.
Speaking on 2GB on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the move is an effort to capitalise on the already strong international student market in Australia.
“The impact of our international student industry and our tourist industry obviously is massively important for our economy. It creates a lot of regional jobs,” Morrison said.
“So, you've got more of those students who are coming in choosing to study in regional areas or places like Adelaide or Darwin and things like that, that is going to support those economies and it's going to remove congestion pressure off Sydney and off Melbourne.”
Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson welcomed the changes.
“Australia’s regions are a great place to study, work and live – offering a highly attractive combination of a world-class university education and an enviable lifestyle,” she said.
“All of Australia’s outstanding university campuses want to ensure they can make their best pitch to attract talented international students weighing up options to study anywhere in the world.”
The government defines 'regional Australia' as everywhere in the country except for Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Wollongong, the Melbourne metropolitan area, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Overseas students presented with one of the 4,720 new scholarships on offer over the next four years will also be able to access an additional year in Australia via a new Temporary Graduate Visa.
In 2018 there were 876,399 international students enrolled in Australia – 399,078 of which were in Higher Education, according to the Department of Education and Training.
New South Wales and Victoria were the most popular destinations for international students, while the likes of Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory each attracted less than 20,000 such students in 2018.
It has been estimated that the international education industry now delivers $32 billion to the Australian economy annually.
There will also be a continued push to send more skilled workers to regional areas, with the introduction of two new regional visas for skilled workers, amassing to 23,000 places set aside for regional visas.
“Under the two new regional visa categories, skilled migrants will be priority processed and will have access to a larger pool of jobs on the eligible occupation lists compared to those who live in our major cities,” the government said in a release.
“Migrants on these visas must demonstrate they have lived and worked in regional Australia for three years before being becoming eligible to apply for permanent residence.”
The total number of skilled migration positions is also set to increase from 35,528 to 39,000.
The population plan will also see Australia cut its permanent migration cap from 190,000 to 160,000 per year from 1 July this year.
Although the cap of 190,000 has been in place since 2012, the actual number of permanent migrants being accepted into Australia has been falling in recent years, only amounting to 162,417 in the past year.
As a result, there will be no effect on the federal budget, due to be announced in April.
Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten pointed out the coalition’s new cap on migration represents a cut of around 1%, suggesting, “let us bot pretend that today was earth shattering news.”
Boost for South Australian tech sector
The population reforms look as though they will particularly benefit South Australia, with the government agreeing to two Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) with the South Australian Government.
The DAMA agreements cover 60 occupations and up to 300 people per year that will be able to be sponsored over a five-year agreement.
One of the two DAMAs – the Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement Agreement – looks to fill high-tech employment gaps and continue South Australia’s push in the space, defence and innovation spheres.
Late last year, it was announced that South Australia would be home to Australia’s first-ever space agency, with the Lot Fourteen site expected to generate 20,000 jobs by 2030.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, David Coleman said the initiative would help the skills gap in regional Australia.
“Our first priority is always to fill jobs with Australians, but the immigration system can play an important role in helping to address regional skills gaps.
“These agreements with South Australia follow the success of the Northern Territory DAMA and reaffirms the government’s commitment to supporting skill needs across Australia where Australian workers are not available to fill those jobs.”