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Australia: The higher the ranking the higher the price, study finds

Australian universities with a higher position in global league tables tend to set higher international tuition fees, according to a recent study.

International student tuition fees at Australia's highest ranked institutions, including the Australian National University, reach over A$30,000. Photo: Francisco Martins.

The top three ranked universities have their average international tuition fee set at over A$30,000.

The comparative analysis of international student fees in Australia was conducted by recruitment firm Studymove Consultants and looked at close to 4,300 programmes at all 39 Australian universities. A strong correlation emerged between the ranking position and the price of the annual tuition fees for international students.

The institutions’ ranking positions were based on the QS World University Rankings. Australian National University was the country’s highest ranked university, in 19th place, followed by the University of Melbourne at 42nd and University of Sydney at 45th. All three of these universities have their average international tuition fee set at over A$30,000.

“Like any other industry, price does reflect in the perception the customer has on the value of the product”

The fee prices were analysed for international students looking to enrol in 2015, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as study abroad programmes.

The average tuition fee price for international students at undergraduate level worked out to be $26,258, with the highest being $37,774 (University of Melbourne) and the lowest at $18,574 (Charles Darwin University).

Looking at postgraduate programmes, the most expensive was $35,547 (University of Sydney) and the lowest was $20,280 (University of Southern Queensland), with an average price of $26,888.

However, there are anomalies in the data, with lower ranked universities maintaining higher fees. For example, Macquarie University, ranking 229th, set its international tuition fees on average at $30,801. Curtin University, at 284th, has average fees of $30,767.

“Institutions are considering a combination of all factors in order to decide what the optimum fee strategy should be and which complements their value proposition,” explained Keri Ramirez, managing director at Studymove.

For an international student choosing an institution , other factors such as programme structure, programme quality and graduate outcomes come into play, but price is still important to consider, said Ramirez.

“We need to acknowledge that higher ranking universities most likely set their tuition fees higher to enable them to offer world class research facilities”

“Like any other industry, price does reflect in the perception the customer has on the value of the product,” he said. “So, we believe that it is essential for universities to assess if their price is right.”

Ramirez said that there is the perception that the universities with higher rankings offer premium programmes and are therefore marketed through a higher price.

“We need to acknowledge that higher ranking universities most likely set their tuition fees higher to enable them to offer world class research facilities, attract internationally renowned researcher and academic staff, offer technologically advanced facilities among other reasons, which all contribute to maintain or improve their international ranking positions,” he said.

Traditionally, universities priced their international tuition fees according to their location.

However currently, Australian universities are experiencing a more competitive environment, Ramirez pointed out. “Within Australian borders so there is a need to have a greater understanding of the pricing strategy implemented by competitors nationally not only from a state or territory perspective.”

The results will also allow Australian universities to benchmark themselves against others in the country.

“[It is] vital that they consider price and their position in the market to implement effective marketing or recruitment strategies,” said Ramirez.

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