International students studying for certain Technical and Further Education (TAFE) qualifications in Australia could face paying higher fees.

In the run up to the general election in July it has been revealed that the Labour Party has plans to charge students thousands of dollars in upfront course fees which would affect both domestic and overseas students.

According to Scott Ryan, current Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, a plan to cap fees will result in upfront fees for some TAFE courses, for example if the course costs more than $8,000.


He fears this could lead to students having to choose between the course that best leads them to a job and the course they can afford.

TAFE courses in English are very popular with overseas students and they already face high fees including those for healthcare over and books and equipment. There are a number of scholarships available for international students and these can vary from state to state.

Through the Department of Education, the Australian Government offers Australia Awards Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships for TAFE vocational education and training courses at Diploma, Advanced Diploma and Associate Degree levels. This can provide financial help with tuition fees and living expenses.

Also the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade there area Australia Awards Scholarships which provide financial support for citizens of specific countries to study in Australia. These can cover tuition fees, return air travel, and a contribution to costs such as accommodation, text books and study materials.

But it is not clear if these awards would cover higher fees. Ryan claimed that under the proposal, students studying a Diploma of Maritime Operations at Hunter Institute, New South Wales, for example, are not currently required to pay upfront fees but would then pay up to $13,025 upfront.

Students studying a Diploma of Website Development at TAFE Queensland in Brisbane could face paying up to $6,900 upfront and students studying a Diploma of Building and
Construction at Victoria's Chisholm Institute up to $8,453.

TAFE directors around the country and representatives of private training providers said that any change should not be promised without a full consultation and also research to find out how it would affect students, especially those from abroad who face higher costs.