The all-too-common impression of international students enjoying pampered luxury in apartments purchased by wealthy parents is often far from the truth, according to Joshua Krook, investigating for the Sydney University news publication, Honi Soit. However, not everyone is convinced.
Liberal Party Senator Sean Edwards recently delivered a damning analysis of international students “rorting” student housing. In a recent Senate Committee hearing, he claimed that a loophole in the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) allowed Monash University to use 70% of its subsidised units for international students.
Kevin Andrews, Federal Social Services Minister, added weight to the claim, stating that legislation needed to change in order to give priority to domestic residents over “wealthy foreign students.”
The National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS)
The NRAS unites the government and developers in provision of discounted accommodation. The scheme has proved popular with universities searching for affordable student housing. Participating universities include:
- Australian National University
- University of Western Australia
- University of Canberra
- Sydney University is also a supporter of the program, and this year applied for 1,200 NRAS residential units, with each one subsidised by $10,000.
Contrary to the above claims by government ministers, there is a much greater overall cost-burden shouldered by International students compared to domestic students. Additionally, international students suffer from debilitating exchange rates and high costs for public transport.
The misconception of the majority of international students enjoying opulent facilities provided by wealthy parents is dismissed in a recent University of Sydney survey:
- Only 7 percent of 1,850 international students studying at the university live in housing provided by their family.
- Almost 40 percent of international students surveyed stated that present accommodation costs were beyond their budget.
Rental accommodation costs close to university are especially prohibitive to international student newcomers without local contacts. The sky-rocketing rental prices, especially in major cities, was a major incentive for the Australian government to introduce the NRAS, which is now under threat from opponents of the scheme.
Although Australian universities provide desirable study options for international students, tuition costs up to three times greater than those of domestic students. For example, international students can expect to pay $35,000 annually to study a Masters of Professional Engineering or Bachelor of Commerce.
The choice of accommodation by international students is affected by transport costs. Many students prefer to reside close to university due to a lack of public transport travel concessions. Although rent is usually considerably cheaper in distant suburbs, the savings are offset by exorbitant financial outlays for buses and trains, meaning a trip to university cannot be had on a whim. International students in Sydney are only provided concessions covering 90 day and 365 day periods, with the financial outlay beyond the reach of many students.
Finding accommodation alternatives
International students are offered various housing alternatives, such as homestay, which has proved extremely popular during recent decades. Unfortunately, the homestay reputation has occasionally been tarnished by instances of neglect and overcrowding. Social media has also assisted, with online services such as Gumtree helping to fill the gap and connecting students with like-minded friends.
In summary, challenges facing international students include:
- High rents
- High tuition fees
- Transportation costs
- Changing Australian Government policies
- Assimilation into Australian society