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Soaring fees in Australian universities add to international student woes

Australian universities
Several Australian universities will reportedly raise their fees next year. Source: WIlliam West/AFP

International students enrolled in Australian universities now have another grim prospect to contend with — increasing university fees. The fee hike has caused an uproar among the international student community in Australia, many of whom are still stranded abroad due to delayed border reopenings following concerns about the Omicron variant. 

For Bangladeshi student Sadman Arafat, the 6% increase to his undergraduate engineering tuition fees came as a shocker. The Monash University student has never stepped foot in lecture halls and classrooms thus far, attending lessons from his family home in Dhaka, SBS News reports.

“The fees I’m paying for Monash are coming in from my family’s life savings…the increase is like a slap to the face,” Arafat was quoted saying. An undergraduate engineering degree for international students at Monash costs around 192,000 Australian dollars over a period of four years. 

Other Australian universities are also reportedly increasing their fees.

SBS News said in 2022, the University of Melbourne will increase its fees for students in line with its 2020 adjustment — an average of 3.2%. The University of Sydney said their fees will increase for international students in 2022 by an average of 3.8%.

Arafat’s case is just one of many highlighting the plight of international students who have been locked out of Australia’s borders. For many, the frustration over lack of support, adverse mental health tolls and delayed graduation plans don’t seem like a fair trade after paying a hefty price for an Australian education.

Australian universities

Some Australian universities are reportedly increasing their fees. Source: Patrick Hamilton/AFP

Are rising fees in Australian universities justifiable?

Amid this outcry, a new book has argued that many Australian universities are under-charging international students. Associate Professor Salvatore Babones, a higher education commentator from the University of Sydney contends that fees should be increased to match the money spent by Australian governments on educating domestic students, The Sydney Morning Herald reports

Dr. Babones asserts that international students should also pay for fixed costs at universities, which is currently covered only by domestic fees. “They should be paying at least the same. They are at some universities. But at many universities they are paying much less. International students are not carrying the full cost of their education,” he was quoted saying.

International Education Association of Australia chief executive Phil Honeywood told The Sydney Morning Herald that international students’ tuition fees were an average of about three times those of a domestic student.

Students at Monash have expressed their indignation over the university’s decision to increase tuition fees. “For two years, international students have not had the opportunity to study abroad in its true sense due to a lack of in-person experience,” says John Nguyen, president of Monash University International Student Services.

In response to the report on Australian universities raising their fees, Australian senator Mehreen Faruqi opined on Twitter: “Universities have leaned on international student income to offset the cost of government funding cuts for too long. We are just failing international students with such exorbitant fees.”

Another Twitter user opined: “Universities and the federal government continue to exploit international students with exorbitant fees.”

Earlier, federal health minister Greg Hunt had confirmed that Australia is “on track” to open its borders for international students and skilled labourers on Dec. 15. “That reopening is scheduled — will be going ahead in consultation with the prime minister, the National Cabinet discussion and the advice from the chief medical officer,” SBS News reports.

 

While this certainly comes as a relief for many, the disruptive delay has proven costly for many who had purchased their flight tickets earlier. Australia has reported a dip in international enrolment numbers due to its stringent border policies, with many international students opting for a change in study destination after continuous hiccups to their Australian study abroad experience.