Labor’s education election promise: more student places

There are 20 000 more undergraduate places but the main message is “Free TAFE”

 “Australians studying in an industry with a skills shortage will be supported through the provision of free TAFE,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese announced yesterday.

Under the plan there will be 465 000 “free TAFE places” including 45 000 “new places”.  There will also be a $50m TAFE technology fund “to improve IT facilities. And when Labor refers to TAFE it means exactly that – state government public providers.

Plus. there is $480m across the forward estimates for 20 000 university places, allocated across 2022-23.

Funding will be allocated to universities that, can provide additional places in priority/skill shortage occupations, target first in family and equity groups and where there is demand.

Reaction: The National Tertiary Education welcomed the commitment, just not enthusiastically.“Further funding is always appreciated, however if its purpose is to secure the recovery of the higher education sector … it must match the scale of the destruction.”

The Group of Eight, called the statement “a down payment on meeting skills needs in priority areas,” but warned, “redirecting funding from other disciplines to high need areas is not the answer – we do need additional places to boost our domestic capability.”

And Universities Australia chair John Dewar (La Trobe) wanted to know more.  “When Government invests in our universities, it invests in the future prosperity of us all. We look forward to when further details on this policy are made available.”

But the Australian Technology Network was explicit in endorsing more student places in both university and TAFE, calling Labor’s “a strategy for growth and prosperity

“ ATN has long advocated for a tertiary education system that prepares Australians from all backgrounds with the skills and capabilities they need to succeed.”

The Regional Universities Network also enthused, saying Labor’s announcement, “would enable regional universities to meet increasing levels … of demand.”

And the biggest winner of the day was loudest in support. The Australian Education Union, which represents TAFE teachers, said Mr Albanese’s statement, means, “life changing opportunities for TAFE students.”

“Labor’s commitments will ensure TAFE teachers have the resources they need to deliver high quality vocational education and that students have the skills they need to get a secure job.”