The Federal Government has announced a $1 billion injection into university research.

The Government is attempting to balance the damage from an enormous drop-off in international student numbers.

As well as $1 billion in new money for research projects, the government is spending $5.8 million on a “scoping study of potential options to accelerate the translation and commercialisation” of non-medical research.

That study will focus on “new partnerships between universities and industry and opportunities for investments”.

It is seen as a sign that the government wants to reduce the amount it spends on research by encouraging universities to find funds elsewhere. The measures may also help reduce the reliance on the higher fees paid by international students.

There is also an attempt to fund up to 50,000 online short courses to re-skill workers and unemployed Australians in teaching, health, science, information technology and agriculture. The effort will cost $251.8 million between now and June 2022.

The sector is preparing to lose billions as international student enrolments plummet.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has described it as “scant support”.

“The $1 billion for research funding … represents a small fraction of the $7.2 billion research funding shortfall identified by independent analysts due to the collapse in international student income,” NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said.

“The 12,000 additional Commonwealth-supported university places are welcome but will be funded at considerably lower rates than existing students as result of the government’s Jobs-ready Graduate funding changes.

“We are also concerned that the 50,000 additional short courses might not be fully funded with universities expected to offer them at discount rates as was the case short courses announced earlier this year.”

The Group of 8 (Go8) - a lobby for Australia’s eight biggest universities - welcomed the $1 billion injection, saying the sector has “been quite desperate”.

“With no idea when or even if that market will ever recover, the silver lining is that Australia can once again claim it is funding its own research,” Go8 chief Vicki Thomson says.