International Students in Limbo

Friday, 20 March, 2015

Uncertainty over tuition fees could become a financial burden on the University of Melbourne’s full-fee paying international students, with graduate students facing a potential 10 per cent increase per annum, says the student union’s president.

UMSU President Rachel Withers told Farrago that as universities face financial uncertainty due to cuts in Government funding, a 10 per cent ‘window’ on fees that are already high is a concern.

“International student fees are a huge financial backbone of the university,” she said.

“Obviously we’re in very uncertain times in higher education, and if times get tough at universities in terms of financial funding they’re going to go for a little bit of a boost and go straight for that 10 per cent extra on the financial fees.”

International student Thibaut Clamart is commencing his Juris Doctor this year, which costs around $110,000. However Clamart believes the course could end up costing $10,000 more, which he said is quite a substantial amount.

He said the uncertainty makes financial planning difficult for international students particularly because they are required to pay their fees up front within about a month of receiving the invoice.

“It’s about knowing in advance and planning and relying on clear information,” he said.

“Without this it makes things much harder.

“I tried to ask [the University] for an explanation for such a high rate but I was told it’s the policy.”

Withers is in discussions with the president of the student union at the University of Edinburgh about a successful campaign run by students in 2013 that achieved fixed course costs for international students.

She is considering launching a similar campaign here, perhaps in conjunction with other universities.

“Students understand they are not fighting for a lower fee but for a defined fee, something more stable and predictable and bit of certainty around what their whole degree is going to cost,” she said.

“Students would rather not have hanging over their heads the potential to be ploughed for extra money.

“We’re looking for certainty that this won’t happen.”

A spokesperson for the university told Farrago that fee information can be accessed at enrolment from October. They said fees are set annually according to the student fee policy. A Student Services Representative for the university confirmed fees for 2015 were finalised mid December just before invoices were issued.

The spokesperson said commencing … international students are required to sign the International Student Acceptance and Payment Agreement which also requires reading through the university fees policy terms and conditions.

“The university tries to set fees as well in advance as possible so that adequate preparations on all fronts can be made, and taking into account the demand for places and the concerns of students.”