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Study abroad : Student Finances

Comparing the cost of a degree overseas [INFOGRAPHIC]

Take a look at our infographic which compares the costs for some of the most popular expenses for students studying in the UK, US, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore....

Comparing the costs of studying abroad [infographic]

'And you know what they call a... a... a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?'

'They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?'

'No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn't know what a Quarter Pounder is.'

'Then what do they call it?'

'They call it a Royale with cheese.'

'A Royale with cheese. What do they call a Big Mac?'

'Well, a Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it le Big-Mac.'


And so goes the famous scene from film, Pulp Fiction. But where would you get the best deal for a Big Mac? How much does a bus ride cost in Malaysia compared to the UK? These daily living costs must all be considered in addition to tuition fees when a prospective student is considering their study abroad options. Similarly, how much is the minimum working wage around the world for students who want to work while studying in order to boost their finances?


We investigated which study destination is the best value for money, with the infographic below


We examined all-important tuition and course fees in six popular study destinations: Australia, New Zealand, UK, US, Singapore and Malaysia, then factored in a selection of day-to-day living and student wage figures. These results can help students weigh up the overall costs of studying abroad.


Tuition costs

When comparing the annual cost of a postgraduate or undergraduate degree in these six countries, the differences in tuition fees are significant. While annual course ranges vary, maximum tuition fees in the UK and the USA can exceed $27k, more than double the maximum amount in Malaysia and Singapore. The minimum average cost for an undergraduate or postgraduate course in the States will cost students at least $19k a year, which is on a par with the maximum charge for a degree in Australia.


An Asian education – based on tuition fees alone – is by far the cheapest option for students, with fees in Malaysia and Singapore starting from as little as $2,800 and $9k, respectively. Australia is surprisingly well placed in the fees comparison, offering a minimum annual fee of $10k, but this is capped at a fairly reasonable maximum of $20k.


Student living costs

Another important factor when assessing the total cost of a degree is how much students will spend on day-to-day living costs in their host country. Hotcourses compared a few essentials like rent, transport and entertainment costs, alongside The Economist’s Big Mac index, to show the cost of living in the six countries.


Australia is the big surprise in this section, topping the chart in all four categories: accommodation, transport, food and entertainment. Students can pay an average of $725 a month for a single room, $95 for a monthly travel card and $15.93 fora movie ticket Down Under.



Accommodation costs in NZ, the UK and USA are lower at $660, $625 and $600 respectively, but the most purse-friendly living costs are in Asian study destinations. Malaysia offers the cheapest living costs in all four categories, with average monthly rent costing only $115 and transport costs as low as $20.


Earn while you learn potential

The overall cost of a degree is also dependent on how much international students can earn while studying. It’s reassuring to see that the high cost of living in Australia is supported by the highest minimum hourly wage, at an impressive $15.53. Students can balance the higher cost of a degree in the UK, NZ and USA with part-time earnings; these three all offer the chance to earn over $7.25 an hour. Asian countries perform poorly in the wage category; Malaysia only offers an average hourly wage of $1.65, with Singapore slightly higher at $3.96.


Asia and Australasia are clearly the cheapest options for the overall annual cost of your tuition fees, Singapore and Malaysia also offer students the cheapest daily living costs. Australia fares well in this comparison. The comparatively high cost of living in Australia can be balanced by lower course fees than some of its Western counterparts and opportunities for international students to earn a good hourly part-time wage.


Reputation and location

Living costs are lower than Australia in the UK and USA, but the fees can be much higher. Don’t forget, however, that the higher cost of a degree in these countries can be justified by the future benefits of a degree from a prestigious British or American institution. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2010-2011 is dominated by institutions from the UK and USA, with 67 institutions from either the States or the UK in the top 100.


Mike Elms, founder of Hotcourses, had this to say about the comparison:

‘Quality and cost are always the two most important factors mentioned by international students when selecting a destination to study abroad. The UK and USA have always done well in terms of perceived education quality, however Asia is proving powerful competition offering degrees taught in English at a fraction of the overall cost.’


Future earning can be influenced by the reputation of the university you choose, so a short-term investment in an expensive degree from a prestigious institution can reap dividends in the long-term. It’s important for students to weigh up the cost overall, alongside a consideration of where in the world they want to be.




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About Author

Comparing the costs of studying abroad [infographic]

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.