About 20,000 New Zealanders are currently enrolled in Australian institutions. (Photo: 123rf)
John Gerritsen – Radio NZ
Australian plans to triple the fees New Zealanders pay to study at Australian universities have angered Kiwis living there and upset the New Zealand government.
Overnight, the Australian government announced higher education cuts and changes, including a decision to stop subsidising enrolments by New Zealand citizens and Australian permanent residents from the start of next year.
Those students would be charged the same fees as international students, pushing the amount New Zealanders pay to study in Australia from about $7000 a year to more than $25,000 a year. [Correction: Kiwis will pay domestic full fees, not international fees].
However, New Zealanders would get access to the Australian student loan system.
An Australian government document said about 20,000 New Zealanders and Australian permanent residents were enrolled in Australian institutions and the change could encourage about 60,000 more to enrol because they would be able to borrow money for their fees.
Prime Minister Bill English said the government was unhappy with the Australian plans, which had come as a surprise.
“Gerry Brownlee will be visiting Australia in the next week, talking to the foreign minister and conveying our unhappiness about it and that we want a serious discussion with them about where they’re headed with this policy rather than announcements made without telling us or at short notice,” Mr English said.
He said the position of New Zealanders in Australia should reflect the traditional relationship between the two countries.
Mr English ruled out changing the rules for Australian students in New Zealand, who are subsidised and charged the same fees as New Zealanders.
The deputy chairperson of lobby group Oz Kiwi, Joanne Cox, said the plan had blindsided people.
She said access to Australia’s student loan system did not make up for the huge jump in fees.
“For young people who are about to start university, those young New Zealanders here in Australia, they’ve just had the rug pulled out from under them,” she said.
Ms Cox said she hoped the government would not be able to pass the legislation enacting the proposed change.
Australian-based New Zealand rights advocate David Faulkner said the changes were discriminatory and contravened international law.
He said a lot of New Zealanders already sent their children back to New Zealand for tertiary education and that was likely to increase if the fee rise went ahead.
The president of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations Jonathan Gee said the changes were a double standard.
“New Zealanders will be left short-changed as a result of these changes, forking out thousands more dollars to study in Australia,” he said.
[Read the Radio NZ article].