Australia’s leading international student news website

International students pay 200 per cent and more in fees

Grace Yew

Tue Jul 02 2013

International students pay 200 per cent more in fees

INTERNATIONAL students are paying as much as 270 per cent more in tuition fees than the average domestic student in Australia. Where does it all go? Grace Yew investigates.

An annual report released by the New South Wales Auditor-General last month has revealed the average international student fee in Sydney to be 274 per cent ($21,741) higher than the average domestic fee in 2011.

According to the report, the course fees for an international student studying in 2011 had grown by almost 30 per cent from 2008 levels.

International student revenue was reportedly distributed evenly throughout each institution’s infrastructure, with the money going to areas such as libraries, research, investment, maintenance operations and general student services.

The report noted the growth of the international student population placed pressure on university resources.

The report also noted the growth of the international student population placed pressure on university resources.

A Group of Eight funding report last December found that the revenue generated from international student fees subsidises every local undergraduate by $1,500.

Victoria is no different from its neighbouring state: international students pay more exorbitant fees, while domestic students are more likely to be financially supported.

The price disparity can be attributed to the Australian government. Local fees are designated according to a standard system known as Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP), wherein the government subsidises local students. To be eligible for a CSP, a student must hold a permanent resident visa, or be a citizen of either Australia or New Zealand.

According to RMIT University and The University of Melbourne, domestic student fees (sometimes referred to as ‘contributions’) are calculated based on the subjects within a particular discipline. Each discipline is in turn assigned to one of three contribution ‘bands’. Most courses require students to enrol in units from more than one band, resulting in a charge comprising the fees for all enrolled subjects.

Contribution Band (by discipline)Annual contribution for local students
Band 1: humanities, behavioural science, social studies, education, clinical psychology, foreign languages, visual and performing arts, nursing$5,868
Band 2: mathematics, statistics, computing, built environment, other health, allied health, science, engineering, surveying, agriculture$8,363
Band 3: law, accounting, administration, economics, commerce, dentistry, medicine, veterinary science$9,792

Domestic students enrolled in the Bachelor of Commerce – an extremely popular course among international students – pay an annual total of $9,792.

On the other hand, international students can pay up to 240 per cent more for the same course. The University of Melbourne and Monash University list the annual fees for their Bachelor of Commerce as $33,344 and $34,000 respectively.

The course admittedly isn’t the same price across the board. Swinburne University charges $20,950 per year for its commerce degree, while RMIT estimates its Bachelor of Business courses cost $23,040 annually.

Undergraduate course fees (business and commerce students)InternationalLocal (CSP)
University of Melbourne$33,344$9,792
Monash University$34,000
Swinburne University$20,950
RMIT University$23,040

Interestingly, not all local students benefit from the CSP program past undergraduate level. While most commencing domestic undergraduates are enrolled in a CSP, CSPs are limited at postgraduate level. Consequently, more domestic students pay the full fee.

For courses such as the 2013 Monash Juris Doctor (JD), the difference between local and international students’ annual fees is less stark. Domestic law students pay $32,740 per standard year, whereas international students fork out $36,680. The University of Melbourne gave no indication that international JD students were charged any differently.

Universities rarely provide specific explanations for the comparatively high international fees, but the majority stated on their websites that the figures are merely indicative. Students are expected to check their respective university handbooks for individual unit credit points in order to correctly calculate the cost.