Dollars and Sense: Australia

How much does it cost to study in Australia? You will need enough to cover your living costs while you study, on top of paying for your university tuition fees. Here’s an idea of what to expect

So how much money do you need to live as a student in Australia? There’s no simple answer to this question, as it depends so much on your individual everyday needs and habits. What one person might consider an everyday necessity, others think of as the height of luxury – a strictly once-a-term treat. Having said that, however, here we’ll try to give you a rough idea of what to expect.

When preparing your budget, remember to factor in how long you intend to be in Australia each year. The Australian academic year is typically 40 weeks long, and lots of the online cost calculators and example budgets provided by the Australian universities work on the assumption that you will be there for just 40 weeks. If you want to stay on over the summer and work, or travel (which you’re entitled to do on a student visa) you’ll need to allow extra budget to cover this.

The single biggest living expense for every student is housing. Each university offers several different accommodation options and we recommend looking into them, and factoring the likely costs into your budget, as early as you can.

Fully-catered halls of residence or residential colleges are good for having lots of things taken care of for you, so you don’t need to worry about them in your weekly budget. Fees for these are generally payable at the beginning of the semester, often as a lump sum. Halls vary in terms of what’s included in the price, but you can generally count on getting three meals a day, plus all your utilities covered. The fee might also include internet, local phone calls, laundry and so forth. Check websites carefully to see what is (and is not) included in the price.

All you’re then left to worry about are any additional course costs (such as textbooks, fieldtrips, art materials and so on) and money for nights out, trips away, and everyday treats like takeaway coffees. Which some people find easier to manage, particularly in their first year away from home.

Fully catered accommodation, however, is not so great for flexibility. Having such large amount of each semester’s budget pre-allocated may not leave you much left over, and you don’t have the option of going for cheap eats for a while to save some cash.

Self-catered university flats or halls of residence offer all the security of fully catered halls (not having to worry about utilities, only having to pay per term, being on or close to campus so lower travel costs etc) but give you the added flexibility of being able to control your food bills.

The amount people spend on food varies hugely, but if you can cook, are happy to shop around for ingredients, and take leftovers to campus the next day for lunch, this can work out to be a less expensive option than fully-catered.

Renting a room or a flat privately is not something we recommend for new first-year undergraduates, but many returning students – and the majority of postgraduates – choose to go for private rental accommodation to give themselves as much financial flexibility as possible. While private renting may look much the cheapest option at first, don’t forget that you will need to budget for food, utilities, internet and phone, local travel (if living away from campus) and set up for your flat (any missing furniture, linen, kitchen kit, hire of television and/or white goods) on top of the weekly rent. Also remember that the lease on private housing is likely to be for 52 weeks, so if you are not intending to stay past the academic year, you might end up paying for housing that you don’t use. The amount of rent you pay will partly be determined by the number of people sharing the property – generally, the more of you there are, the lower the rent.

Accommodation and every day costs

Here are some examples of what each of the accommodation options above might cost you at different universities in eight different Australian cities. These are only examples; please be sure to check accommodation and costs information for the specific university you are interested in studying at elsewhere on this site.

  Rent (fully catered halls) Rent (self-catered university accommodation) Rent (private accommodation) Power Food Local travel
Flinders University (Adelaide, South Australia) $283 per week $180 per week $120-$380 per week $35-$55 per week $90-$130 per week $20-$35 per week
James Cook University (Townsville, Queensland) $250-$300 per week $195 per week $100-$130 per week $20 per week $75 per week $30-$40 per week
The University of Queensland (Brisbane, Queensland) $500 per week N/A Around $220 per week $25 per week $120 per week $20 per week
The University of Western Australia (Perth, Western Australia) $375 per week N/A Around $200 per week $35 $175 $30
The University of Newcastle (Newcastle, New South Wales) $280 per week $155-$250 per week $120-$160 $25 per week $150 $20
University of Sydney (Sydney, New South Wales) $350-$480 per week $170-$220 per week Around $200-$300 per week $35 $80-$150 $35
The University of Melbourne (Melbourne, Victoria) $560-$710 per week $215-$370 per week $190-$230 per week $34-$45 per week $100 per week $30 per week
University of Tasmania (Hobart, Tasmania) $340 per week $145-$245 per week $100-$150 per week $12-$20 per week $50-$110 per week $10-$20 per week

Cost of living: What’s the bottom line?

Australian universities recommend that international students budget between AU$18,000 and AU$28,000 per year for living expenses. Some cities are more expensive to live in than others – please check the living cost information on each university’s website carefully, or speak to Study Options, to check details. Bear in mind that all the figures quoted on these pages are approximate, and the cost of living will vary according to lifestyle.

All costs are given in Australian dollars. For currency conversions and the latest exchange rates, please visit www.xe.com.