Free education down under

A desperate shortage of local students has forced Australian universities to offer free tuition to attract master’s, PhD and post­doctoral students from other countries.

The nation’s booming resources industries are luring engineering and science graduates with salaries of up to A$100 000 (about R678 000) a year compared with the usual A$20 000 for a postgraduate on a research scholarship.

With declining numbers of local students prepared to undertake postgraduate research degrees, universities in the resource-rich states of Queensland and Western Australia are recruiting students from around the world with offers of scholarships and free tuition.

The school of engineering at the University of Queensland has attracted more than 30 foreign students by waiving fees worth A$30 000 a year. The students undertake research in a range of areas, including biological, civil, environmental, mechanical, metallurgical and mining and materials engineering.

Overseas postgraduates are drawn to the University of Western Australia, which also introduced a fee-waiver programme two years ago. Initially 40 scholarships were available to foreign PhD students. This has been boosted by another 50 places a year, specifically aimed at attracting students from China.

The big eastern state institutions are in the market for foreign postgraduates too. The University of Sydney offers 30 international research scholarships every year to outstanding foreign students. The scholarships cover tuition fees plus an annual stipend of about $20 000.

The University of Melbourne offers 150 international fee remission scholarships each year to students undertaking research higher degrees. Each faculty has a limited number to award. A further 38 new-endeavour international postgraduate research scholarships are available to students undertaking research higher degrees.

These, however, are funded by the Australian government and cover full tuition for each year of the course and the annual overseas student health cover. Students awarded a scholarship by the university also receive free tuition, a living allowance, thesis allowance and other benefits.

Last December the University of Adelaide signed an agreement in Beijing with the Chinese Scholarship Council under which tuition fees, travel costs and living expenses for PhD and postdoctoral students are met while they are in Australia. At least 10 of the new scholarships are on offer this year, rising to more than 30 in the next three years.

Professor John Taplin, Adelaide pro-vice-chancellor (international), went to Beijing to participate in signing the agreement with the secretary general of the Scholarship Council, Zhang Xiuqin. Taplin said his university would waive tuition fees, while the council would meet all the students’ travel expenses, living costs and health insurance while they were in Australia.

He said Adelaide had developed partnerships with five research-intensive universities in China and expected the number to increase in the next few years.

“Adelaide has a very good relationship with China and we have seen the number of students enrolled in our programmes markedly increase,” Taplin said. “We have not seen the same dramatic rise among our own PhD research students and we identified this as an area where we needed to do more.”

Universities elsewhere around the world, particularly in the US, were providing fee waivers to attract students so Adelaide decided to find a means of achieving the same goal, Taplin said.

A spokesperson for the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations said fee waivers would become a trend as universities competed at the higher end of the international student market. This was in sharp contrast to the previous attitude of universities trying to attract the maximum number of foreign full-fee paying undergraduates to boost their incomes, the spokesperson said. — Â

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories