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Is it worth it for Australians to study overseas? WorldFirst analyses the costs for 7 university destinations

July 3, 2018 Statistics & Trends No Comments Email Email

Studying abroad is the experience of a lifetime for many, enabling students to get a degree while immersing themselves in a new culture. Costs, however, are the major consideration when on a student budget.

Patrick Liddy, Head of Foreign Exchange at WorldFirst (, a global leader in international money transfers, said: “Whether you’re studying abroad for three, six or 12 months, planning ahead is crucial. One of the major considerations is your finances. Not only do you need to consider the cost of moving and spending a year abroad, but many forget about the hidden costs of foreign exchange rates when transferring Australian dollars to foreign currencies, or paying for tuition costs or rent in the local currency. This is especially the case for popular exchange destinations, such as Europe, the US or UK, which have stronger currencies.”

WorldFirst’s ‘Cost of Education’ analysis across seven popular overseas destinations

WorldFirst analysed at least four university tuition and halls of residence costs in major cities around the world, as well as flights and living expenses, to compare the annual costs of studying abroad.

To understand how expensive these overseas locations are for students, WorldFirst first analysed the cost of studying in Melbourne. A year in Melbourne will cost a student around $31,500[1], thanks to Australia’s relatively cheap tuition fees. This includes annual tuition fees of $8980[2], which can be deferred through the HECS-HELP scheme for Australian residents.

1. New York. The Big Apple tops the list as the most expensive city to study abroad – costing an estimated AU$76,000[1] a year – mainly due to rent and tuition, which can be AU$19,670[2] and AU$46,950[3] respectively. It is no question that studying in one of the world’s fastest-moving cities is exciting, however with the AUD falling 8 per cent against the USD between January and May this year, and expectations of possible further falls expected later in the year, studying in New York is the most expensive option.

2. Los Angeles. From the excitement of Hollywood to the energy of the beach, it’s hard to go past this vibrant and sprawling city. However, you’ll fork out for tuition fees here, as nothing falls short of AU$50,440[3] per year. This is almost double the average charged by universities in most other cities analysed.

3. Montreal. If you’ve got your sights set on North America, Montreal is a much more affordable option. Yearly expenses in this Canadian city are AU$33,510[4] – half the cost of the US. The exchange rate is nearly AU$1 for CA$1, and living costs, which include food, transport and entertainment, are also among the most affordable.

4. London. London tops the list as the world’s best student city in 2018, according to QS rankings[5]. A year of study in London, however, will set students back around AU$45,720[6]. To avoid sky-high rental costs, consider staying in university halls of London’s world-renowned colleges, which cost around AU$10,870[7] a year. Students will need a good exchange rate strategy – or use an international money transfer provider to help them schedule overseas payments – when converting to stronger currencies such as the Pound.

5. Edinburgh. If you’re planning on an exchange to the UK, Scotland’s capital is AU$5000 cheaper than a year in London. Living costs in Edinburgh are the most affordable of any city, totalling an estimated AU$5770[8] annually.

6. Hong Kong. Despite being the least affordable city in the world[9], the annual cost of studying as a foreigner in Hong Kong is roughly the same as an Australian studying in Melbourne. While tuition fees are comparatively higher than in Australia, the cost of accommodation at Hong Kong’s institutions is much cheaper, at AU$3060[10] – less than a fifth of the cost of residential accommodation in Melbourne.

7. Paris. Surprisingly, Paris is one of the most affordable cities for study. Students will pay just $29,500[1] a year. Tuition fees can be as little as $250, if you’re lucky enough to get into one of its world-renowned public institutions. Living costs are on par with Melbourne, but rent is a third of the price, at $5,610[2]. However, don’t forget to check exchange rates. The AUD dropped nearly 10 per cent between July 2017 and May 2018. If this trend continues, studying abroad in Paris could easily cost 10 to 15 per cent ($2950 to $4425) more than initially calculated.

Patrick adds: “International money transfer services, such as WorldFirst, help students make the best financial decisions when moving abroad. With rates up to seven times cheaper than the big four banks, WorldFirst can save students thousands of dollars in transaction fees.”

Cost of student’s top exchange destinations in the order of most to least expensive (AUD per year)

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