Council of International Students Australia national president Bijay Sapkota said the students, who were staying overnight in a Charles Sturt University library, highlighted growing issues with the ballooning costs of international education in Australia.
“Universities should consider housing as services, not as a financial asset”
“International students spend about $120,000 for a course in Australia, let’s say, and then they have to spend an additional amount on the housing. If it’s university housing, it’s more expensive,” he said.
Sapkota added institutions should start to reconsider how they view their student accommodation options and should start thinking about how to reduce housing costs.
“Universities should consider housing as services, not as a financial asset because international students are already being charged a lot of money and the fee is ever growing,” he said.
According to reports, the six students reside in Sydney during the weekend, but travel more than four hours northwards during the week to attend classes in Port Macquarie on CSU’s campus.
Speaking with ABC News, CSU deputy vice-chancellor Jenny Roberts said the students were provided with a variety of options and had now found appropriate accommodation in Port Macquarie, but Sapkota told The PIE that pre-departure information was often lacking for students.
“Pre-flight information is very, very important and education agents have a key role in informing students about to where to go and how,” he said.
“A lot of students are not even aware of their rights,” he added, pointing to recent instances of exploitation in accommodation and workplaces.
Education minister Simon Birmingham agreed with Sapkota’s call for more responsibility from providers, but warned students that they should not be seeking money-saving options like this in the future.
“It is up to Australian universities to make sure that when they enrol students there is appropriate support for those students, as well as in terms of accommodation,” he said.
“They do deserve to get a great experience while they’re here, a positive study experience, a wonderful experience of Australia, but also they are appropriately looking after themselves and being looked after.”
Student accommodation continues to make headlines around the world as destination countries struggle to keep up with demand. In 2017, students in the Netherlands were discovered living in tents.