How Much You Will Have to Pay to Study in Australia

Basically you will need to pay for at least the following items: visa costs;

  • flight costs;
  • tuition fees;
  • compulsory medical insurance;
  • study materials (books, possibly a computer);
  • accommodation;
  • other normal living costs (e.g. food, travel to university);
  • travel expenses for sightseeing in Australia.

The last item is of course not compulsory but in all my experience I have known only one German student who came to study in Australia without including at least a tour of part of Australia.

Most of the items on the above list will have to be paid in Australian dollars. We now look at the above points in a little more detail, although I cannot claim to be an expert on costs or on sources of funding, because I have never personally been a student in Australia! So please be careful to check for yourself about the financial situation, rather than relying completely on what I write.

I would also suggest that you visit the following web pages, which appear on the websites of reputable universities and provide advice to students about the costs of living in Australia:

Monash University:
https://www.study.monash/why-choose-monash/our-locations/life-in-melbourne/cost-of-living

Deakin University:
http://www.deakin.edu.au/study-at-deakin/international-students/study-abroad-and-exchange/fees-and-costs

Visa Costs

In order to study in Australia you will need to have a student visa. We will discuss how you can obtain a visa in chapter 7. The costs are of course determined by the Australian Government and these change (increase!) from time to time. At the time of writing a student visa costs A$ 540.00. There is no longer an additional fee for students who want to work in Australia while they are studying.

To find out the latest information, visit:
http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Stud

Flight Costs and Routes

Recent increases in the price of kerosene have driven up the cost of flights to Australia quite considerably. At the time of writing a return flight for under one year is obtainable for less than €1.400,--, but the actual price depends on when you wish to travel, how long you plan to stay, with which airline you fly, which route you fly, whether you make a stopover (e.g. a few days in Singapore) and so on.

A return ticket is usually very considerably cheaper than two single tickets (i.e. a single ticket to Australia and then another single ticket to return to Germany).

You can book on-line with some travel agents, and this is usually cheaper than actually visiting the travel agency. Here are three of the websites which you might like to consider:

  • http://www.travel-overland.de/
  • http://www.ab-in-den-urlaub.de/flug.htm
  • http://www.traveltopia.de/fluege/allgemeine_flugsuche.htm

My students have also sometimes indicated to me that the student tarifs available at http://www.statravel.de exact are often cheaper than flights which can be booked via other travel agents.

The above list is not to be viewed as a recommendation. I usually book my flights while I am in Australia and so I have no significant experience with these or other on-line German travel agents.

The most popular routes are from Frankfurt via Singapore (or other S.E. Asian capitals such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Manila) to Australia. In this case you will fly over the Middle East and southern Asia. These routes are flown by the major European airlines such as Lufthansa and British Airways. The major Australian airline Qantas also flies such routes. (Qantas has never had a serious accident in its entire history, although recently it has experienced several minor problems.)

If you are flying from another German destination, then there may be alternatives which avoid Frankfurt. (You may find this worthwhile because changing flights in Frankfurt, especially if it involves a change of terminal, can be a harrowing and time consuming experience.) For example from Bremen (where I live while I am in Germany) it is possible to fly via Paris with Air France, via Amsterdam with KLM or via Munich with Lufthansa.

Lufthansa does not actually fly to Australia, but flies only the first stretch to a S.E. Asian destination, and then you fly on to Australia with a partner airline (e.g. Singapore Airlines). Nevertheless it may be worth booking with Lufthansa, because − unlike many other airlines − Lufthansa accepts responsibility for flight transfers within Germany. Some other airlines cannot guarantee the connection between Frankfurt and other German destinations. And in my experience Lufthansa tends to be quite cheap.

On the other hand Lufthansa uses aircraft for its flights to South East Asia which in my recent experience (economy class) are not as well equipped as the aircraft of its competitors. I refer here particularly to the entertainment facilities; those which I have experienced can only be described as "old fashioned". The 12 hour Lufthansa flight which I recently made from Singapore to Frankfurt (in contrast with similar flights in recent years flown with its competitors) did not have individual video screens for each passenger, and consequently there was no choice of films and no possibility to play games, etc. On such a long flight this is in my view a severe disadvantage. However, I cannot be sure that all Lufthansa flights have this problem. You should check directly with Lufthansa or with your travel agent.

Some airlines fly quite different routes. If you fly with Japanese Airlines you are likely to fly over the North Pole to Tokyo and then on to Australia. Similarly China Airlines (the Taiwanese airline) flies over the North Pole via Taiwan to Australia. Emirates and Etihad, on the other hand, fly via Dubai or Abu Dhabi in the Gulf States, and may make an extra stop, for example in Singapore. Such flights are often cheaper, but the total flight time might be longer.

Booking early is important, if you want to get a cheap flight. For those who want to be sure that they will definitely be going to Australia before making a booking, early booking can be a problem because the Australian Government will only issue a student visa after you have paid your initial fees and have received a confirmation of enrolment from the Australian university (for more on this see chapter 6).

Finding a flight for the stretch between S.E. Asia and Australia can sometimes be a particular problem, because at the beginning of a new Australian semester many S.E. Asian students will also be flying to Australia.

Tuition Fees

This will be one of the main costs which you will have to pay. The cost varies from course to course and from university to university. But to give you a very general idea of tuition fee levels, you can expect to pay somewhere between about A$ 15,000 and A$ 30,000 per year (for two semesters) or half of this for one semester. We can group the universities into three main categories in accordance with their historical background (for more details see Chapter 4).

The Universities

The "elite" universities, known as the Group of Eight, are the most expensive from the viewpoint of fees, but nevertheless they are not all equally expensive.

The remaining universities which were founded as universities and which existed as universities before the reform which was instigated by the then Labour Government at the end of the 1980s (which I will refer to as the "the second group" of universities, without prejudice to the quality of these universities in relationship to the other groups) tend to be rather cheaper than the elite group. And again prices vary within this group.

Those universities which before the reform were "institutes of technology" and "colleges of advanced education" (cf. the Fachhochschulen in Germany) and which as part of the reform were elevated to the status of universities, tend to be rather cheaper than the second group. I refer to these as "the third group" − again without prejudice. There are universities in this group which provide high quality courses and should therefore not be dismissed as possible study destinations, even if according to this categorisation they belong to the third group. The better universities in the third group tend to have fee prices comparable with those of the second group.

Costs of Individual Courses

You should find a website entry for each course which a university offers. (For further details see the appropriate appendix for the university in question.) But discovering what you will actually have to pay in fees for that course can be quite difficult on some websites.

One problem is that the actual fee levels are often fixed quite late in each calendar year for the next year. Suppose that you are trying to discover in August 2008 the fee price for a course which you plan to start in February 2010 then the chances are that you will only be able to discover the 2008 price for the course. You may have to wait until say October or November 2009 before the 2010 fee has been announced. Usually the cost of fees increases annually, and the actual increase normally corresponds approximately to inflation.

Another problem is that if you take a course which spans two or more calendar years then the fees may be increased each year. And even more complicated is the fact that some universities offer a special "summer semester" over the Australian summer (from about November to February). The fees for units (lectures and similar) offered in this semester may be based on the price for the following year, rather than on that for the current year.

Study Abroad courses usually, but not always, have a fixed per semester cost, but degree courses at some universities use an "indicative" fee in the course description. In this case, the actual course cost depends on the units which you select as part of the degree course. The indicative fee is meant to provide you with an "average" or approximate amount which you will probably have to pay, based on patterns of enrolment in the course from previous years. Often the indicative course is reasonably accurate. But this is not always the case, especially when the course includes a wide selection of units, especially if these are from different faculties.

If you want to calculate in advance the actual costs you are likely to have to pay for a course at a particular university (subject to the limitations mentioned above), you will have to use the university's website to find the units in which you actually plan to enrol and then add up the individual prices for these. In the appropriate appendices you will find more detailed information about how you can do this for particular universities. Remember that if you later change your selection of units, then the price may change.

School Fees for your Children

If you wish to take your children with you to Australia and they are of school age, they must attend an Australian school and you must pay tuition fees for them, even if they attend a Government school.

Compulsory Medical Insurance

The Australian Government requires you to purchase "Overseas Student Health Cover" (known as OSHC). This is an Australian medical insurance and it is compulsory even if you are already covered by some German insurance (e.g. a private travel insurance) or for example by "Beihilfe". This rule also applies to any family members (e.g. spouse and/or children) who will accompany you to Australia. So you must always take this cost into account when calculating whether you can afford to study in Australia.

In the past students paid their OSHC in instalments annually as they progressed through their course, but it is now becoming more popular to have to pay in advance for the entire period of their studies. Fortunately this change does not adversely affect most of my German students, as these usually come anyway for not more than one year. For those who stay longer than a year this system is arguably better, because

(a) it saves students the bother of renewing their OSHC each year,
(b) students are covered for the entire length of their visa, thus fulfilling their visa obligation,
(c) students remain covered if they have to finalise a unit over the summer period.

By German standards the cost of OSHC is not very high (a few hundred dollars for a year), but it does not cover all the costs which a German Krankenkasse covers (e.g. dental costs). However, if this is a concern and you do not have a German insurance which provides the extra cover, you can obtain additional cover in Australia; you can obtain this from the same company with which you have OSHC insurance.The cost depends on your choice of benefits.

There are several insurance funds which are approved to provide OSHC and normally the university which you choose will help you organise this. You may have to pay the university for this when you pay for your first fee instalment (before leaving Germany). However, you should see this as a service to help students; if you prefer you can shop around for a cheaper OSHC.

You can apply for a student visa only after you have paid your initial tuition fees. (You can read more about this in Chapter 6, which describes the process that you will have to undergo in order to obtain entrance to an Australian university.)

Study Materials

Your tuition fees do not cover additional costs of studying in Australia, such as the purchase of books, etc. Although in appropriate disciplines there may be laboratories where you can access a computer, there are some courses for which a computer might be essential but is not provided. Furthermore access to the internet may be possible in some courses, but be warned: the level of your access may be severely restricted. Students have often complained to me about this. The allowance available for the use of computer resources (including printing) and internet access is usually very much less generous than in German universities. So I would suggest that in your financial calculations you should allow for the purchase of a laptop computer and for personal internet access.

Accommodation

Remember that tuition fees are for tuition only. You will also need to pay for your accommodation. The price of this depends on questions such as where you plan to study and whether for example you want to live in university accommodation, or with an Australian family or as a student group renting a house.

At this stage I would suggest that you seriously think about persuading some of your fellow students to come with you as a group to Australia. I have organised courses for several such groups (up to about five students) who have jointly rented a house for a year and have been very happy with this arrangement, which is probably the cheapest way of living in Australia. That way you can share many costs (e.g. rent, internet access).

In general university accommodation is considerably more expensive than the other possibilities, but you may find that this saves you other costs (e.g. travel to the university, facilities such as internet access, etc.), so this is also seriously worth considering.

The universities themselves provide excellent accommodation services for their international students. They also usually help you to find temporary or permanent accommodation.

Airport Collection

One thing which your tuition fee may include, is that you can arrange to be met (at no extra cost) on arrival at the airport and be transported to your first accommodation. But if you want to use this service remember to book it in advance. In some universities an additional fee may be charged for this service.

More detailed information on accommodation and on airport collection is provided chapter 7.

Other living costs (e.g. food, travel to university)

Nothing is cheap in this world, and that applies to the cost of living in Australia − and in Germany!

Food

You might think that as a country with a vast primary industry the cost of things such as meat, fruit and vegetables should be cheap in Australia. When I first went to Australia (in the 1970s) that really was the case. However, since then things have changed very considerably − very much for the worse. Food prices are now very high, just as they also are in Germany. And the farmers have the same complaint here as there: the "middlemen" (the large wholesale and retail organisations) are responsible for the high prices, while the prices paid to the farmers have hardly increased in recent years. So, just as in Germany, the price of food in Australia is high. My own feeling is that the prices are about the same in both countries or perhaps a little higher in Australia (depending on the current exchange rate).

But there can be surprises. Australia tends not to import fruit and vegetables, and so is very dependent on conditions in particular regions of Australia. For example in 2006 there was a very severe tropical storm in North Queensland which wiped out most of Australia's banana crop. In the few months following that bananas in Australia cost around $11 (about €7) per Kg!

Travel to the University

In comparison with German cities, the Australian capital cities are huge. They have large populations (Sydney and Melbourne each have around 4 million inhabitants) and they have a vast "urban sprawl", because most families own their own houses and have relatively large gardens. Thus the distances, even within one city, can take Germans by surprise. For example the drive from Deakin University's Burwood Campus (its main Melbourne Campus) to Melbourne Airport is more than 40 kms while to the same destination from the main Monash University Campus at Clayton is more than 50 km, and the distance from the Monash Campus in Berwick to the airport is around 75km.

It is obviously a good idea to choose accommodation which is in the vicinity of the university which you have chosen if you want to keep your costs down. Another point which you should consider is that although the Australian capital cities have quite good transport systems, they tend to be radial, i.e. it is fairly easy to travel between the suburbs and the city centre, but it is sometimes difficult to get across from one suburb to another using public transport.

One saving grace of Australia is that the petrol prices at the pumps are very considerably cheaper than the prices in Germany. (But Australians don't consider that their petrol prices are cheap!)

How to Get a Better Idea of Living Costs

I could not be too helpful about actual dollar prices in the general descriptions above, because prices change and there are so many choices and alternatives. But when you have chosen your university you will almost certainly be able to find a page on their website which gives you a good indication of how much you really need.

Here are some examples:

Melbourne:
https://www.study.monash/why-choose-monash/our-locations/life-in-melbourne/cost-of-living

Gold Coast:
https://bond.edu.au/future-students/study-bond/how-apply/fees-costs/financing-your-studies/living-expenses-international

Travel Expenses for Sightseeing in Australia

This of course depends very much on where you want to go and how you want to get there. Australia has many attractive and interesting places of all types. I suggest that you look at a travel guide to help you decide. But remember that the distances can be enormous. From the far north of Queensland to the southern end of Tasmania is a distance of about 4,000 kilometres, and from Brisbane to Perth is also more than 4,000 kilometres!

There are long-distance buses which will take you between the main capitals, and of course there are railways. But don't expect the railways to be as fast or effective as the German Bundesbahn (despite the criticisms it has come under in recent years). Many students hire a car or campervan from a cheap hire company, and some buy an old car very cheaply then (if they are lucky) resell it at the end of their holiday. But remember that driving in the "bush" or in the desert (e.g. on the way to Alice Springs or Ayer's Rock) can be very dangerous, and it would be unwise to attempt this in an unreliably old car. Driving conditions in outback Australia are not at all like driving in Germany!

Important

I have tried to describe the costs which you will have to pay to study in Australia and also the possibilities known to me for receiving assistance with paying these costs. This information is intended as a help for you but I cannot guarantee that it is correct or up to date. I strongly advise you to check the information sources which I have provided, and where appropriate other information sources, to make sure that you are aware of the latest rules and regulations before you commit yourself to costs which you intend to incur for studying in Australia.