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Explainer: Why is an International Student Levy Being Discussed?

As an international student, the news of a possible levy on your student fees in Australia might have reached you since the Universities Accord Interim Report was released earlier this year.

While it is currently just a proposal, it’s important to understand what this levy could mean for you as an international student and for the future of higher education in Australia.

What is this levy all about?

The proposed international student levy is essentially a new charge added to tuition fees. If this levy goes ahead, a part of the fees that international students pay to study in Australia will be set aside into a fund. Unlike the smaller levies currently in place for specific government services, this new levy would be more significant and its direct benefits for students are not as clear.

Here’s how it would work: a portion of international students’ fees would go into a  fund. This fund would then be distributed to universities that may not have a large income from international student fees, aiding those institutions during economic challenges. The idea is to prevent financial problems for universities in the future. Still, it has understandably raised concerns from international students about the potential for increased costs and what exactly they would gain in return.

Why is it being considered? 

The proposal comes in response to the financial vulnerability of Australian universities, which often rely on the income from international students’ fees. Recent global events have highlighted the risks of this reliance, and the levy is suggested as a means to reduce such financial risks in the future.

How will this affect me as an international student?

As an international student in Australia, you likely have concerns about how the proposed levy on tuition fees could impact your finances. If the proposal is adopted, it could mean an increase in the cost of your education in Australia, with higher tuition fees for you as an international student, adding to the already higher costs you face compared to your domestic peers. This raises valid concerns about fairness and the use of these funds. The goal of the levy is to strengthen universities’ financial health, which in turn should benefit the quality of education provided. However, clarity on how it directly enhances your student experience is crucial.

Currently, this levy is still under consideration and has not been finalised. Insider Guides will provide updates as the situation develops to ensure you have the latest information to plan your student budget accordingly.

How have Australian education providers responded?

Institutions and sector representatives have been vocal about their reservations. There is a consensus that while financial sustainability is critical, international students should not be the ones to carry this burden alone. Instead, calls for direct government intervention to address the funding shortfall in research are growing louder.

When can we expect to know the results of the proposal?

The Universities Accord ministerial reference group held its final meeting in early November 2023. The report is estimated to be handed down in December 2023.

The federal government will publicly respond in early 2024.