A soup kitchen of international students

Over the last couple of days Fairfax Media published a couple of articles about international students which I thought were interesting.

The first was the report that up to 50 international students were lining up for free meals for the homeless that were provided by the local Salvation Army. Some claims made were that the affected students were in financial strife because they were being exploited by unscrupulous employers and some had gambling issues. Situations like these are very unfortunate and those who find themselves struggling should certainly seek assistance to recoup money owed to them, or counselling for those with harmful afflictions.

The article then highlights the importance of the need for international students to be prepared for the financial costs of studying in Australia. In fact, for some student visa applications it is a requirement to adequately demonstrate access to funds for course fees, living costs and school costs before they can be granted a visa. Whether this is mandatory is wholly dependent on what assessment level they are. This is determined by their country of passport and the subclass of visa the student is applying for. Assessment level 2 countries and above require evidence for at least the first 12 months in Australia and in some cases, applicants may need evidence of further funds or risk being granted a visa with a condition that prevents them from applying for a further visa application in Australia other than a select few.

Course fees are set by the education provider, and travel costs are the sum of money all applicants need to travel back to their home country. Living costs are adjusted from time to time and currently this is set at a basic rate of AUD 18,610 per year. This figure is obtained in consultation with a range of stakeholders and factors in inflation. There are additional percentages of this figure for partners and dependent children so it can certainly add up.

What are the requirements for an assessment level 1 applicant you may ask? Well, none. A declaration of access to adequate funds is generally all that is required.

What may be problematic here is that potential students who would normally have to show adequate funds, are exempt if they are studying at an education provider who is participating in the streamlined student visa processing arrangement. This is an arrangement where a student visa applicant, if enrolled in a specific course of a listed education provider, are assessed as assessment level 1 regardless of their country of origin. Without adequate consideration of how much money is required to study in Australia, students may simply be declaring they have access to funds when the contrary is the case.

There are some great valid points made in this article, namely:

  • Australia is an expensive place to study due to the high cost of living,
  • Student should consult widely before coming to Australia to study, and
  • Currency volatility could make or break a student’s ability to subsist.

Speaking of currency volatility, on a brighter note, the second article reports that Melbourne is ranked the fifth most searched for destination among US students seeking to study overseas.

Considering the decline of Australia’s dollar in comparison to the US dollar recently, and the Reserve Bank of Australia’s desire to keep it this way (if not a little lower), Australia can only benefit by being a more attractive destination for overseas students and tourists.