10 September 2014

Australia the most expensive country for education, HSBC report

Australia risks falling behind other western countries on both price and quality of education when competing for the international student market, according to global research from HSBC. The research also shows that Australia remains popular among Asian parents; however, it is rated lower amongst Chinese – Australia's greatest source of international students for the past 10 years.

HSBC's research, The Value of Education: Springboard for success, surveyed more than 4,500 parents in 15 countries and territories, including Australia, examining attitudes and behaviours towards children's education globally.

The research finds Australia is the most expensive education destination - above other tertiary heavyweights such as the US and UK. The total cost for international study in Australia, including annual fees and cost of living, is calculated at USD 42,000 a year whereas the equivalent annual cost of international study in America is USD 36,000.

The cost of education in Australia is also disproportionately higher than the perceived quality of the education on offer. Only 25 per cent of surveyed parents rank Australia within the top three nations for education. In comparison, 51 per cent and 38 per cent of parents consider the USA and UK to be in the top three, respectively.

Australia is more reliant on international student intake than other countries, boasting the highest concentration of international students in the world. A 2013 research paper shows 20 per cent of students enrolled in tertiary education in Australia are from an international market, compared with the global average of just seven per cent*.

Graham Heunis, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management for HSBC in Australia, commented: "Australia's high quality of life and proximity to Asia has enabled it to historically punch above its weight in attracting international students. However, it's imperative that Australia continues to demonstrate educational value to ensure that the in-flow of international students continues."

Despite the wider gap between cost and perceived quality compared to other key markets, Australia remains a particularly popular destination amongst Asian parents. HSBC's Value of Education report shows Asian parents are more likely to rank Australia in their top three destinations for overseas study, with parents in Hong Kong, Singapore and India all regarding Australia favourably (56 per cent, 50 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively).

However, the research also shows parents from China do not rank Australia high on quality, placing it fifth behind the US, UK, Germany and Hong Kong. China remains the largest single nation contributor to the international student population in Australia, with over 76,000 enrolments in 2013, far outweighing the likes of Malaysia (13,500) and India (11,500)**.

Heunis concluded: "China's growing middle class means that it will continue to represent a significant part of the international student market, globally. Attracting Chinese student intake will be a key factor in maintaining education's role as a key export sector for Australia."

Country University
Fees per
year (USD)
Cost of
Living per
year (USD)
Cost Total
per year
Quality of
% who
rank country in
top 3 for
Quality of
Australia $24,081 $18,012 $42,093 1 3 25
Singapore $18,937 $20,292 $39,229 2 6= 10
United States $24,914 $11,651 $36,564 3 1 51
United Kingdom $21,365 $13,680 $35,045 4 2 38
Hong Kong $13,444 $18,696 $32,140 5 7 6
Canada $16,746 $13,201 $29,947 6 4 20
France $247 $16,530 $16,777 7 6= 10
Malaysia $2,453 $10,488 $12,941 8 9 3
Indonesia $4,378 $8,527 $12,905 9 11= 1
Brazil $59 $12,569 $12,627 10 11= 1
Taiwan $3,338 $8,573 $11,911 11 10 2
Turkey $1,276 $10,089 $11,365 12 11= 1
China $3,844 $6,886 $10,729 13 5 13
Mexico $750 $8,710 $9,460 14 11= 1
India $581 $5,062 $5,642 15 8 5

Countries perceived to offer the highest quality of education by Chinese parents

  Percentage Rank
USA 73% 1
UK 57% 2
Germany 27% 3
Hong Kong 24% 4
Australia 20% 5=
Canada 20% 5=
China 16% 7=
France 16% 7=


*Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development 
**Australian Education International 

The 15 countries in the league table are those surveyed in The Value of Education: Springboard for success (see below).

The annual university fee for each country is calculated based on the average annual fee for an undergraduate international student studying at one of the 10 largest public universities in each country, where available. Annual fees data for each university are either sourced from the university website, by phone via their admissions departments or from other credible websites. Public universities are at least partly funded by the state or government, unlike private universities which are commercially funded.

The annual cost of living for international students in each country is based on the average cost of living in the cities where the top 10 universities are located. Cost of living data for individual cities are sourced from the Expatistan website (www.expatistan.com ) and calculated as a percentage variance from the cost of living in London. The cost of living for each country is calculated by taking the average variance of all 10 cities.

The annual total cost for international students in each country is the sum of the average annual university fee and the average annual cost of living.

The quality of education rankings are taken from The Value of Education: Springboard for success p.21. Parents were asked to say which 3 countries offer the highest quality education (all levels) from a list of 51 countries (including their home country). The quality rankings show the sequence of the 15 surveyed countries in the list of 51 countries.

The Value of Education is a global consumer research study which explores parents' attitudes and behaviours towards children's education. The first report, Springboard for success, represents the views of 4592 parents in 15 countries around the world: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

The survey was conducted online in December 2013 and January 2014, among parents who have at least one child under the age of 23 currently (or soon to be) in education, and who are solely or partially responsible for making decisions about their child's education. This independent research study was commissioned by HSBC and carried out by Ipsos MORI. The Value of Education global report was published in April and is available on www.hsbc.com  Retail Banking and Wealth Management.

The HSBC Group
HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from over 6,200 offices in 74 countries and territories in Europe, Asia, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,754bn at 30 June, HSBC is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organisations.

HSBC Bank Australia

In Australia, the HSBC Group offers an extensive range of financial services through a network of 37 branches and offices. These services include retail and commercial banking, financial planning, trade finance, treasury and financial markets, payments and cash management and securities custody. Principal HSBC Group members operating in Australia include HSBC Bank Australia Limited (ABN 48 006 434 162 and AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 232595) and The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (ABN 65 117 925 970 and AFSL 301737).