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High Cost of Study in U.S., Britain

August 4, 2011

A report on tuition fees charged to overseas students has found that the U.S. is the most expensive of 10 nations surveyed, followed by Australia and Britain, and stressed the need for "competitive positioning" on scholarships.

The study, the first of its kind in the UK, was conducted by consultancy firm i-graduate for Britain's Higher Education International and Europe Unit. It examined fees for undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate research courses at universities in 10 key international student destinations, taking a snapshot of four subject areas at four to six institutions in each country.

The U.S. had the highest tuition rates, and courses cost more at New York University ($40,567 a year for undergraduate history) and at the University of Southern California ($40,874) than at Harvard University ($35,401).

Fees at Australian universities outstripped those in the UK, even at institutions ranked lower than their British counterparts, says the report, "International Pricing Study: A Snapshot of UK and Key Competitor Country International Student Fees." Overseas fees for an undergraduate history degree at the University of Sydney were $26,997 a year, while at the University of Oxford, an equivalent course cost $20,815.

Fees were lowest in Germany, starting at $834 a year for undergraduate study at the University of Frankfurt. Germany and the Netherlands were the only nations surveyed that offer public subsidies for overseas students’ tuition fees.

The study’s authors, i-graduate chief executive Will Archer and project manager Jacqueline Cheng, say that pricing and market intelligence will be increasingly important, and suggest that the "low or nonexistent" tuition for postgraduate research students in continental Europe, Canada and New Zealand could become key as countries compete for research talent.

But tuition is only part of the story, they add, pointing to "significant support for high-quality international students in the form of scholarships [and] fee waivers" offered by some institutions and nations such as the Netherlands and New Zealand.

"More should be done in the UK to attract the most able international students," they say.

The study notes the impending closure of the Britain's post-study work program for overseas students even as other governments "seize the opportunity to divert great talent from rival destinations."

The estimated costs of living cited by institutions are highest in the U.S. (more than $30,000 a year at Harvard), followed by Australia and the Netherlands. And recent currency fluctuations have benefited Britain most, making it 10 percent cheaper for Indian students to study in the country than it was three years ago, and 24.5 percent cheaper for Chinese students.

 

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