Australian Degrees

Higher Education Options in Australia No Stranger to Change

No matter what the status of the global economy, striving for a higher education provides a valuable accomplishment. Whether or not it delivers on the promise of higher pay for the length of the career is often more up to the individual than the fact he or she has a particular degree.

As information is readily available on the cost of higher education, it tends to focus with a heavy bent on the U.S. market. For those in the Australian market who understand the world does not begin and end in the United States, we have gathered data on the costs associated with seeking an undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degree in Australia.

This educational system is one that has changed much over the past 100 years. For some, the changes have delivered an opportunity of higher education for the masses. Others preferred the traditional system that opened up higher education options only for the elite. The country can certainly benefit from an educated society and by supporting higher education through tax dollars, only positive outcomes can emerge.

In reality, there are a number of benefits to studying in Australia, whether you are a native or not. Overall cost of studying in Australia creates benefits as there is a shorter time required for completing degrees. For undergraduate degrees, study generally only takes three years. In addition, there are a number of master’s degree programs that can be accomplished within one year.

The higher education sector in Australia is made up of 37 public and three private universities, three self-accrediting higher education institutions and 86 private higher education providers. Surprisingly, higher education was free of tuition for roughly ten years from 1974 to 1985. Beginning in 1989, the majority of Australian students contributed to the overall cost of their higher education through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) until further reforms emerged in 2003.

For students studying in Australia who were not attending a public university that fell under the support of the Commonwealth – which meant the government subsidized the cost of the course – they often faced paying most or all of their fees on their own. In 2005, the Australian government developed a loan scheme, FEE-HELP to assist Australian students in their quest for a better education.

Interestingly, funding for higher education in Australia is also supplemented through fees paid by international students. Such students now account for 14 percent of the total student population and fees for these students range from $A7,000 per year to $A25,000 per year. As a result of the growing interest in an Australian education, it is now being considered a major “export” at roughly $A5 billion per year.

This growing export is also being subsidized by higher living expense rates associated with international students seeking to study in Australia. Aside from the higher fees they pay for their education, many of these students are also facing higher living expenses compared to the United States. This could hurt the potential for the country’s major export and college recruiters seeking international student placements.

With the loss of free education in the Australian market, you would think it would hurt demand. In truth, the exact opposite happened. Education used to be strictly for the elite. Now, the number of individuals enrolling for higher education courses continues to grow, even as the cost of an undergraduate degree can run $A10,000 per year and a master’s degree can cost as much as $A20,000 per year.

When a student reaches the level of studying for a doctoral degree, the cost tends to remain constant in the $A20,000 per year range for three years of study. While a number of students have been able to obtain their PhD through a government funded subsidy, most today are required to pay their own way completely at this level of education. In addition, government funding is harder to come by as research funding continues to be cut.

The one constant in the Australian education system has been the consistent change in the delivery of the higher education system in relation to cost. In moving to serve the masses through partially government-funded education – instead of fully-funded – the government has hoped to achieve a balance in the overall platform. This has helped to drive demand for educational services while it has also created a market to attract international students. As this change appears to be positive, experts suggest the changes are not yet complete.

Now, the current government has suggested the tertiary education platform should be taken closer to a situation of “user-pay.” Such a design is expected to help ensure the system is more viable and sustainable. The problem is the cost could reach beyond the capabilities of the even higher earning tax payers of the future. At the same time, this platform could implement a system of higher quality education. [10]

A comparison with the American educational system could present a study worth investigating. The cost of education versus the quality, while also taking into consideration the accumulated debt of students and graduates at all levels presents arguments for and against a user-pay system. While it is too soon to tell what the ultimate outcome will be, the debate will be an interesting one to watch.

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