Issues facing International Students in Australia
Australia is one of the dream destinations for international students owing to its high quality of education and high quality of life. Interestingly, the country generates a significant amount of annual revenue from its exports of international education. According to the Deloitte Access Economics (2015), this export is Australia’s third largest export with the value of AUD 18.8 billion. Clearly, international education contributes significantly to the Australian economy.
Despite Australian’s reputation of high quality education, overseas students may be facing issues. In this report, we will explore the trend of international students’ arrivals and their experiences while living in Australia. Then the variety of issues that may arise will be discussed. Those issues include expensive tuition fees, high living costs, lack of financial support, lack of income sources, and increasing rates of crimes against overseas students. Data for analysis are gathered from scholarly sources, web-based publications and other publications.
Number of International Students in Australia from 1994 to 2015
Over the past 21 years, the number of international students in Australia has been increasing. In 2015, the overseas students’ number increased by nearly 10% from 587,365 in 2014 to 645,185.
Also, it is worth noting that the country experienced the downwards trend during the periods of 1997 to 1998 and 2009 to 2012. The dramatic change occurred during the period of 2009 to 2012. When comparing the 2009’s figure with 2012’s figure, the number of international students reduced by almost 19%. This may be caused partly due to the global financial crisis (GFC).
The following visualization illustrates the number of international students in Australia from 1994 to 2015.
Number of International Students in Australia by Education Sector (1994-2015)
In consideration of the number of international students enrolling in different education sectors in Australia, it is clearly seen that, over the past two decades, the majority of overseas students has enrolled in higher education sector, for example, undergraduate degrees and postgraduate degrees. In 2015, there were almost 300,000 international students studying higher degree courses in the country as shown in Visualization.
International Students Experience in Australia
The UK HE International Unit (2014) conducts the survey on experiences of international undergraduate students in major English-speaking countries which include United Kingdom, United States and Australia. Students assess their experience by scoring the level of satisfaction from 1 to 4 (where 1 means very dissatisfied and 4 means very satisfied) based on three categories. Those categories include living experience, support services and learning experience.
The following visualization shows the top 10 international students experiences with lowest satisfaction.
Comparison of Experiences of International Students in Australia and the United Kingdom in 2014
The experiences of international students associated with financial matters in Australia and in the United Kingdom seem to be similar as shown in the below visualization. The satisfaction scores given by students are less than 3 in money-related categories.
Nonetheless, the living cost in Australia seems to be higher than that in the rival country. Students in Australia are less satisfied with the living cost compared to those in the UK.
Expensive Tuition Fees
Studying in a foreign country can be costly for students. Seemingly, expensive tuition fees are one of the biggest nightmares for international students coming to Australia. The following visualizations describe the issues faced by international students in respect to the tuition fees paid annually.
Tuition Fees for International Students in Australian Universities
The above visualization shows the tuition fees for international students in Australian universities for the year 2015. Also, it shows only universities fees for Bachelors and Masters’ degrees in the three popular fields namely Arts and Education, Business and Engineering/Science. While the minimum annual international fees are approximately AUD 18,000, the maximum tuition fees can exceed AUD 80,000.
We will now analyse the fees by levels of study and by fields of study.
By levels of study
- Bachelor’s Degrees: The lowest tuition fee is about AUD 19,000 and the highest is about AUD 40,000.
- Masters’ Degree: The lowest tuition fee for a master degree is about AUD 18,000. The highest tuition fee for a master degree is about AUD 80,000.
By fields of study
- Arts and Education: The minimum fee for international student is AUD 18,000 and the maximum is about AUD 34,000.
- Business: The minimum tuition fee for an international student is AUD 18,000 and highest is about AUD 80,000. The lowest tuition fee in the field of Engineering/Science is AUD 20,000 and highest is about AUD 40,000.
The following visualization shows the tuition fees for international students in Australian Universities in 2015
Total Annual Expenses for International Students in Australia
According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (2016), the minimum cost of living in Australia is AUD 18,610 per year which is almost equal to the minimum university fees . If we combine the annual living cost with the tuition fees (as shown in the below figure), it is obvious that total costs for overseas students are costly.
The visualization shows that the minimum expenses needed by overseas students are over AUD 37,000 whereas the maximum costs are about AUD 100,000.
Now we will consider the total expenses by levels of degree and by study fields.
By levels of degree
- Bachelor’s Degree: The lowest cost for a bachelor degree international student is about AUD 38,000 and the highest is about AUD 55,000.
- Masters’ Degree: the minimum costs incurred are about AUD 37,000 and the maximum is about AUD 100,000.
By fields of study
- Arts and Education: The lowest cost incurred is about AUD 37,000 and highest cost is about AUD 55,000.
- Business: The minimum cost incurred is about AUD 38,000 and highest cost is about AUD 100,000.
- Engineering/Science: The lowest cost for an international student is about AUD 41,000 and the highest is about AUD 55,000.
Comparison of Tuition Fees of Three Universities in Australia in 2015 and 2016
It is interesting that tuition fees for domestic and international students do differ in Australia. The below visualization compares domestic and international tuition fees of three Australian universities for the year 2015 and 2016. The selected universities include James Cook University, Southern Cross University and University of New South Wales (UNSW). Additionally, the undergraduate and post graduate programs of different study fields are taken into consideration.
High Living Costs in Australia
It is previously mentioned that international students are not satisfied with the living expensive costs in Australia. In this section, we will compare the living costs in Australia with those in China which is one of the major home countries of international students, as shown in the following visualization.
It is evident that living in Australia can be costly for overseas students. Rent per month in Australia, in particular, is 260% higher than rent in China.
Lack of Financial Supports for International Students
Lack of financial supports is another issue facing overseas students in Australia. The chart below clearly explains how domestic and international students are getting financial supports.
In most categories domestic students receive more financial support for their expenses than international students.
Lack of Sources of Income/Employment Opportunities
Being restricted to 40-hour work per fortnight, international students in Australia seemingly do not have plenty of employment opportunities. Whilst domestic students are able to work full time and earn income form paid employment, overseas students (undergraduate, postgraduate-coursework and postgraduate-high degree research) may be struggling to finance their living in this expensive country. The regular allowance, overseas students receive are primarily form their family.
Follows are examples of income from paid employment domestic and international students can earn. Clearly, domestic students are able to earn double compared to international students.
It is also worth noting that, overseas students do not receive any support from the Australian government while local students are entitled to various government financial supports. Those supports include
- Austudy/ABSTUDY/Youth Allowance,
- Government family allowance, and
- Other Centrelink payments.
Personal Crimes against International Students in Australia (2005-2009)
Despite the fact that Australia is one of the safest countries in the world, statistics shows that the rates of personal crimes against international students from five different countries have increased. It also shows the radical increase of personal crimes against overseas students, particularly in case of male students.
During the period of 4 years (2005-2009), the number of incidents reported by international students has alarmingly increased by 333% from 992 incidents in 2005 to 4,301 incidents in 2009.
Personal Crimes against International Students in Australia by Nationality (2005-2009)
Considering the recorded personal crimes by nationalities of overseas students, it is worth to note that Indian students are the most targeted victims, following by American and Chinese students as shown in the below figure. Interestingly, students from these three countries encounter the increasing rates of personal crimes every year.
The trend of crime against Malaysian and South Korean students are different. The incidents reported by these students increased during 2005 to 2007. Nonetheless, the number continues to decrease after that year.
Personal Crimes against International Students in Australia by Nationality and Type of Personal Crime (2005-2009)
The types of personal crimes studied consist of assault, robbery and personal theft. Based on the following visualization, personal theft is the most encountered crime among international students from all five countries. The rates of reported theft are high in case of Chinese, Indian and American students. In case of American students, the number of personal theft recorded increased dramatically from 532 in 2008 to 700 incidents in 2009, an increase of 31.5%.
Similarly, Indian and American students suffered the most from assault and robbery. For students from both countries, the assault incidents reported increased by over 30% over one year period.
Interestingly, it is also important to note that the rates of all three crime types against students from India and the United States have increased every year and this may require a further investigation by the responsible parties.
Australia is obviously one of the world’s most popular education destinations for international students. Over the past two decades, the number of international student enrollments has increased especially in the higher education sector. Seemingly overseas students are satisfied with many aspects of their experiences while studying in the country.
Nevertheless, there are some issues that contribute to the less satisfied or dissatisfied experiences of international students. Important among them includes costly tuition fees, expensive costs of living, lack of financial support, lack of employment opportunities and insufficient income sources. The increasing rates of crimes against overseas students are also noteworthy. Responsible authorities should further investigate on the matter.
In order to ensure that Australia can continue to be one of the leading education destinations in the world, these international student issues should be further studied and dealt with.
Australian Institute of Criminology, 2009, Crimes against International Students in Australia: 2005-2009, available at: http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/publications/special/001/caisa.pdf, viewed 27 May 2016.
Deloitte Access Economics (2015), The Value of International Education to Australia, available at: https://internationaleducation.gov.au/research/research-papers/Documents/ValueInternationalEd.pdf, viewed 10 Jun 2016.
Department of Education and Training, 2015, International Student Enrolments in Australia 21994-2015, available at: https://internationaleducation.gov.au/research/International-Student-Data/Documents/INTERNATIONAL%20STUDENT%20DATA/2015/2015%20Time%20Series%20Graph.pdf, viewed 6 Jun 2016
James Cook University, 2016, Fees and Costs, available at: https://www.jcu.edu.au/international-students/fees-and-costs, viewed 6 Jun 2016.
Numbeo, 2016, Cost of Living Comparison between Australia and China, available at: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries_result.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=China, viewed 2 Jun 2016.
Southern Cross University, 2016a, SCU International: 2016 Course and Fee List, available at: http://scu.edu.au/international/index.php/220/, viewed 4 Jun 2016.
Southern Cross University, 2016b, Students: Domestic Students Fees Information, available at: http://scu.edu.au/students/index.php/48, viewed 4 Jun 2016.
Southern Cross University, 2016c, Undergraduate Domestic Tuition Fees, available at: http://scu.edu.au/students/index.php/64, viewed 4 Jun 2016.
The UK HE International Unit, 2014, International Undergraduate Studuents: the UK’s Competitive Advantage, available at:, viewed 1 Jun 2016.
Uni Reviews, 2016, Tuition Fees for International Students, available at: https://universityreviews.com.au/lowest-tuition-fees/, viewed 29 May 2016.
Universities Australia, 2013, University student finances in 2012: A study of the financial circumstances of domestic and international students in Australia’s universities July 2013, available at: https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/news/commissioned-studies/Australian-University-Student-Finances-in-2012#.V2T7BTXCaSc, viewed 30 May 2016.
University of New South Wales, 2015, UNSW Tuition Fees: 2015, available at: https://student.unsw.edu.au/fees-domestic-full-fee-paying, viewed 3 Jun 2016.
University of New South Wales, 2016a, Tuition Fees-Domestic Fee Paying, available at: https://student.unsw.edu.au/fees-domestic-full-fee-paying, viewed 3 Jun 2016.
University of New South Wales, 2016b, UNSW Indicative Fees, available at: https://student.unsw.edu.au/fees-domestic-full-fee-paying, viewed 3 Jun 2016.