University fees in Australia to rise from 2018 with subsidy for New Zealand students ending

by Ray Clancy on May 3, 2017

in Education in Australia

Cuts to higher education budgets in Australia are not as drastic as feared, but fees for students will rise from the beginning of January 2018, it has been confirmed.

But a row has broken out over the decision to end subsidies for students from New Zealand living and studying in Australia, which means they will have to pay the full cost of their studies.

Fees will increase by 1.8% each year from 2018 up to 7.5% by 2021 and students who take out loans will need to pay them back sooner as the repayment threshold is being lowered from $55,000 to $42,000.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Bill English, said he was ‘pretty unhappy’ with the changes. Experts warned that the cost of degrees for New Zealand students at Australian universities could quadruple under the changes.

When the full subsidy is removed and the full fee increase implanted it means that a New Zealand student enrolled at the University of Melbourne, for example, would see the cost of an arts degree rise from $6,349 a year to $29,632 and for a science degree from $9,050 to $35,824.

‘It’s always been the case that students can move freely across the Tasman. Now some are looking at student debts in the hundreds of thousands and it’s just absurd. I’ve had messages from people who saw the news and almost cried. They don’t want their kids to leave university with these huge debts which are completely unexpected,’ said Tim Gassin, chairman of the Oz Kiwi group.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations accused the Australian Government of creating a double standard. ‘New Zealanders will be left short changed as a result of these changes, forking out thousands more dollars to study in Australia,’ it said in a statement.

‘Student loans in Australia won’t go nearly far enough to make up for the additional cost of full fees. There exists a double standard when Australian students are entitled to domestic fees here, yet New Zealanders no longer will get the same entitlement in Australia,’ it added.

Australian Education Minister Simon Birmingham said that the change means that there will be a better balance of the contribution share between students and taxpayers from 42% to 46% for students and a fall from 58% to 54% for taxpayers.

He also announced changes which he said would improve accountability and transparency in the country’s higher education sector. Entry requirements will be made more transparent and universities will be held to account for improving retention, completion and employment outcomes.

‘We will ensure universities are accountable for how they spend public money by making 7.5% of each university’s Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding contingent on performance against key benchmarks. In 2018 this funding will be dependent on participation in admissions transparency reform and cost of education and research transparency initiatives,’ he said.

‘From 2019, this funding will be dependent on performance metrics such as student outcomes and satisfaction, transparency and financial management with a formula to be developed in consultation with universities. Legislation will require that any funds withheld be reinvested into well performing universities, new equity measures or additional research funding,’ he added.

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