Taxpayers would subsidise the training of priests and other religious workers at private colleges for the first time under the Abbott government's proposed higher education reforms, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
The government's proposed higher education package extends federal funding to students at private universities, TAFES and associate degree programs.
Religious teaching, training and vocational institutes would be eligible for a share of $820 million in new Commonwealth funding over three years.
Labor and the Greens attacked the policy, saying it breaches the separation of Church and State. Earlier this year, the government controversially announced it would provide $244 million for a new school chaplaincy scheme but would remove the option for schools to hire secular welfare workers.
Eleven theological colleges are currently accredited by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to provide courses designed to prepare students to enter religious ministries.
Institutes such as the Sydney College of Divinity, Brisbane's Christian Heritage College and the Perth Bible College, which currently charge students full fees, would be eligible for an estimated $4214 funding a year each student under the reforms.
The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, which offers course units including "Theology and Practice of Natural Family Planning" and "Marriage in the Catholic Tradition", would also be eligible for federal support.
FULL STORY Abbott government cuts university support; funds priests' training (SMH)