Australian student influx tipped

The cost of many university courses in Australia is expected to increase from 2016. The University of Auckland expects this could make New Zealand institutions more attractive to Australians and Kiwis living in Australia.

Australians can study in New Zealand for domestic fee costs and without the need for a student visa.

The Government does not believe there will be an influx as Australians cannot access student support. New Zealand universities could see a surge in the number of students crossing the Tasman if a new funding system gets the go-ahead in Australia.

The Abbott Government wants to deregulate course fees, which could push the cost of getting a qualification up by thousands of dollars for some students.

Australians can study in New Zealand for domestic fee costs and without the need for a student visa.

The possibility of more Australian students looking to save money by enrolling in New Zealand institutions has been raised by University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon.

Australian universities and other accredited providers would set their own fees from January 2016 under the policy, with the Government reducing tuition funding.

"Just how much tuition fees will rise is yet to be determined, and it will undoubtedly depend on the ranking of the university," Dr McCutcheon wrote in a memorandum to the university council.

"It may well make New Zealand universities more attractive to New Zealanders living in Australia and to Australian students."

Dr McCutcheon yesterday stressed to the Herald that it was not certain what changes might get final approval in Australia, and the resulting effect on fees. But if the planned changes did survive, he said the top universities would have to put their fees up.

"If the fees went up very substantially ... then there is probably some merit for Australian students in considering New Zealand as a destination," Dr McCutcheon said.

"Since the number of domestic students is capped by the [New Zealand] Government ... it would then raise the question of whether a more able Australian student would win the place of a less able New Zealand student."

However, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said it was unlikely that high numbers of Australians would come to study here.

That was because while they paid domestic fees, they were unable to access student support such as loans and allowances.

"But obviously if we got a sudden influx of Australian students, to the extent that it would have any impact on the number of places [available to Kiwis], we'd be looking at that pretty quickly."

The number of Australian citizens currently studying at New Zealand universities is small - last year 370 enrolled at the University of Auckland, and a majority had attended school here.

- By Nicholas Jones of the New Zealand Herald

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