23 Jun 2020

Australian fee changes could benefit New Zealand universities

11:01 am on 23 June 2020

Massive fee rises at Australian universities are expected to affect New Zealand students and universities.

Auckland, New Zealand - March 1, 2017: Sign and logo of University of Auckland set near modern dark gray offices in green park like environment. Gray sky.

Photo: Claudine van Massenhove

The federal government is doubling the annual domestic fee for humanities degrees and slashing the cost of courses it says are in demand in the workforce such as teaching and nursing.

From next year, new students enrolling in subjects including communications, social studies and law would pay $A14,500 a year ($NZ15,491), while those in programmes including English, languages, maths and agriculture would pay $A3700 ($NZ3953) a year.

The changes apply to fees for domestic students and are expected to include New Zealand students in Australia, who are charged the same fees as Australians.

The president of Australia's National Union of Students, Molly Willmott, said the announcement sparked outrage and could affect a lot of New Zealanders.

"There are thousands of students here who decide to do the trek across the pond who could potentially be paying 113 percent more in their degree, that's $A14,500 for a course per year when we're looking at humanities and communications, which are very popular degrees especially for international students coming from New Zealand."

Willmott said it was too early to know if the increase would drive Australian students to enrol at New Zealand universities, but it was a possibility.

"When students are deciding what degree they're going to take, especially if they are low SES [socio-economic status], or first in family university students and they're about to be hit with an extreme increase in fees over the time of their studies, then they're going to look at other options," she said.

Next year an Australian starting a political science degree will pay more than $15,000 a year if they study in Australia, or nearly $6000 if they come to New Zealand.

The dean of art at the University of Auckland, Robert Greenberg said the fee changes could create an opportunity for New Zealand universities.

"We haven't really thought of heavily recruiting students in Australia," he said.

"It hasn't been something we've done on a regular basis but it's a good thing for us to be thinking about because I do think there's an opportunity there."

Professor Greenberg said the fee changes could also stop a lot of New Zealanders going to Australia to study.

"There's the Covid-19 element, which is making us think that more students will stay local, but also seeing that the price would be about 113 percent more for a humanities BA I think that would also disincentive potential students," he said.

Professor Greenberg is vice-president of the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities which opposed the fee increases.

He said the changes were very misguided and did not consider the skills Australia would need in future.

"The deans of arts, social sciences and humanities of Australia and New Zealand are very much up in arms about what's happened."

He said Australian universities were expecting the policy would reduce enrolments in their humanities faculties, prompting big cut-backs.

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