Rank and reputation still key pull factors despite soaring costs

Despite the high cost of studying in Australia, the University of Melbourne remains a popular choice among international students for its strong performance on global rankings. Diane Leow reports.

Photo: Alan Levine via Flickr

Photo: Alan Levine via Flickr

The University of Melbourne’s reputation as a leading university remains a key driving factor for international student enrolments, despite the rising cost of international education in Australia.

A recent report by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) found that Australia is the most expensive country for international study. The report compared the cost of study and living in 13 countries popular for international study and found that students studying in Australia spend an average of US$38,000 each year on school fees and living expenses.

Education fees are higher than ever in Western countries so this is something we’ve got to take a closer look at and question. – Janelle Oh, University of Melbourne student

The United States came in second with students spending an average of around US$35,000 annually, while the United Kingdom was ranked third at US$30,000.

The report found that Australia is an attractive study destination thanks to the reputation of its tertiary institutions, the falling Australian dollar and improved visa processing.

China’s Shanghai Jiaotong University recently published its Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), in which Australian universities retained their top 200 positions.

The University of Melbourne remained Australia’s top institution, moving up three spots to 54th place.

Melbourne has ranked number one in Australia for three consecutive years, and was also the first Australian university to achieve a top 200 ranking in the ARWU for all ten individual disciplines.

Other universities in the top 100 include the Australian National University (66), University of Queensland (85), University of Western Australia (91) and University of Sydney (97).

Monash University and the University of New South Wales were named in the 101-150 band.

Meld spoke to three students from the University of Melbourne. All three agreed that Australia’s proximity to their home countries and the University of Melbourne’s reputation in the region were pertinent factors in their decision.

Singaporean student Qiwen Tan, who just commenced her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Melbourne, says she chose Melbourne over other universities because most of her peers were also accepted.

“Quite a lot of my friends were coming here. There was also (the University of) Queensland and UWA, but I heard it’s the best uni here in Australia,” she said.

Entry requirements into Melbourne University courses were also a pull factor. Miss Tan, who holds a Business Studies diploma from Singapore, looked into studying in the United Kingdom, but was unable to apply as most university courses required A-level English.

University of Melbourne Bachelor of Arts graduate Edwin Wong says the university’s location was another factor which helped him to decide.

“It’s about the same time zone (as Singapore), making communication with my family easier,” he said.

He added that Melbourne’s “lifestyle, arts and culture” and the university’s reputation among employers persuaded him to choose the University of Melbourne over Australia National University.

Malaysian student Janelle Oh will be completing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Criminology at the end of this year, and will be furthering her studies at Melbourne University’s Juris Doctor programme.

She noted the high cost of education in Australia, especially compared to the US as “concerning”.

One of the greatest benefits of studying at Melbourne University was definitely its ability to attract industry leaders and academics to deliver public lectures. – Edwin Wong, University of Melbourne graduate

“Education fees are higher than ever in Western countries so this is something we’ve got to take a closer look at and question. Personally, I am happy and grateful with the education I am getting, but still think education should not be priced so expensively, because I am part of a minority whose parents can afford to send me to Australia to study,” she said.

She added that there are many students who may not be able to afford an expensive education and cost should not be a barrier to obtaining knowledge.

The rising cost of living in Melbourne was also a cause for concern for Mr Wong.

“At the time of applying, the difference in cost of living was marginal compared to my home country and I was prepared for it.”

“However, the exchange rate of the Australian dollar grew stronger gradually. On hindsight, I’d probably would have chosen to study elsewhere, such as the UK, given the burgeoning costs,” he said.

However, Miss Tan chose to study in Australia as the University of Melbourne was able to grant her credit exemptions because of her prior studies, therefore lowering the cost of her degree.

“It isn’t so bad for me because I’m studying here for two years. If I go to the UK, I must study for three or four years,” she said.

Both Mr Wong and Miss Oh credited the University of Melbourne for creating a conducive place for academic studies and student life.

“One of the greatest benefits of studying at Melbourne University was definitely its ability to attract industry leaders and academics to deliver public lectures,” Mr Wong said.

“I think Melbourne University does a great job managing both great teaching and great campus life. Both play a very significant role,” Miss Oh said.

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