Go8 biggest culprits in short-changing Melbourne’s international students


It’s widely known that until the pandemic, international students were coming to Melbourne en masse, paying a premium to study in the city frequently dubbed the world’s most liveable.

But dollar figures showing the exact difference in the cost of education between international and local students are staggering.

Compared to their peers, some students are paying ridiculously higher prices…for the same material.

At the University of Melbourne a humanities or STEM subject costs an international student a whopping $4,355 more than a local student in a Commonwealth supported place.

Similarly, over at Monash University a STEM subject costs an international student $4,375 more than a local student in a Commonwealth supported place.

A question of fairness

Lecturers mark students’ work using the same criteria and present the same course material to the same group of students who attend the same class, either on online or on campus.

Students have access to the same university resources and get the same outcome if they pass the subject or degree, yet we are paying different prices for the same content.

I never thought to look at university subject fees, until I was sitting in a post-graduate master’s class and comparing courses with a classmate.

Out of curiosity, I asked a fellow student how much they were paying, only to find out that the subject we were both taking, was not charged to us at the same price.

One of us was paying more.

Our curiosity grew – so we asked others in our class, only to find out that we were all paying different prices.

As we went around the room, it shocked us to realise we were being charged four different prices.

One student was paying $850, another $2,800, another $3,200 and finally the international student was paying $4,700.

Four very different prices for the same subject.

Research and further discussion with classmates uncovered the reasons for the differences between student fees.

It’s based on the structure of your course, expected earnings in the future, and what HECS-HELP loan a student has applied for.

How ridiculous is it that it’s harder than ever to find a job yet uni fees are partly based on what an individual is projected to earn in the future?

Universities are a business

When it comes to tertiary education international students pay an average of $2,573 more per humanities subject and $3,708 more per STEM subject than Australian students on CSPs.

A lot of people erroneously think overseas students pay more because they don’t pay Australian taxes (even though many work – and therefore pay taxes – while studying here).

What people forget is that universities are a business to sell the best education possible.

International students are not aware of prices so they pay what is asked of them, and they want to get the best education in the world – Melbourne’s universities offering a world-class education.

Internationals also pay upfront, which guarantees money for the university when the student arrives on campus.

Ideally, we should be paying the same amount across the board because ultimately, we all get the same thing when we graduate – a good education and a world-class degree.

But regardless of where you come from, education is big business and universities want to make money irrespective of whether it’s fair for all students.

Over the years, in real terms the amount of funding universities receive from the federal government has decreased, so universities have been forced to increase fees.

Since the 1st of January 2020, the Australia government changed the way it funds universities, with the hope more students would study in fields such as nursing, teaching and trades.

These changes have affected student hip pockets even before they begin their classes.

Some course prices increased while others became cheaper.

According to the former federal Education Minister Dan Tehan these changes are part of the “Job Ready Graduates” package.

“To deliver cheaper degrees in areas of expected employment growth, students who choose to study more popular degrees will make a higher contribution,” Mr Tehan told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“From next year, students will have a choice – their degree will be cheaper if they choose to study in areas where there is expected growth in job opportunities,” he said.

Apparently cutting fees for some courses will help students become “job ready”.

Although these changes affect student courses, subject fees are still varied.

You would think universities would make course fees as fair as marking assignments, because at the end of the day, they are trying to make an effort to educate themselves and go forward in life.

Monica Di Battista is a fed up broke journalism student at La Trobe University