Adelaide gazumps rivals with ‘matching scholarship’

University offers 15 per cent discount to applicants who have already been offered support by another institution

October 9, 2018
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An Australian university has upped the ante in the rampant competition for foreign students in the country, unveiling a scholarship scheme designed to poach would-be enrolments from other institutions.

The University of Adelaide’s “Matching Scholarship (International)” scheme offers 15 per cent tuition fee discounts to overseas students who have already been offered scholarships from other institutions “but are still interested in considering [Adelaide] as a potential study option”.

The scholarship, which will debut next year, is the latest tactic in a discounting war gripping Australian universities that appear to be spooked by signs of a slowdown in their lucrative international enrolments.

An Adelaide spokesman said that “enquiries about scholarship opportunities” had inspired the university to develop the scheme. “This is aimed at students who have a range of potential university offers to choose from but have not committed to studying at a particular institution,” he said.

“If they have a desire to study at the University of Adelaide, and they have been offered a scholarship elsewhere, it’s important for them to know that a scholarship may also be available for them [here].”

The inducements are restricted to commencing, full fee-paying international undergraduate or postgraduate students who have already qualified for admission at Adelaide but have received scholarship offers elsewhere for degrees in similar fields.

Australian universities are increasingly reliant on international tuition fees, which now generate 21 per cent of their income on average. Many have engineered scholarships to maintain or boost their market share in education exports and to diversify away from big-spending Chinese students.

Indian students, in particular, are typically more price-conscious than the Chinese, who tend to view high fees as a mark of prestige.

The Australian newspaper last month reported that universities around the country were resorting to discounts “dressed up as scholarships” to attract foreign students.

The practice was most prominent in Western Australia, where overseas enrolments flatlined after the state government pulled out of a scheme that helped international graduates secure permanent residency.

Universities in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have also introduced measures to cut the cost of courses or accommodation, the paper reported.

In July, Times Higher Education uncovered confidential Education Department statistics showing massive increases in overseas enrolments – in one institution’s case almost doubling in less than three years – at four of the prestigious Group of Eight universities.

The figures suggested that less highly fancied institutions were being left behind as Australia’s richest universities ramped up their international enrolments to compensate for government funding cuts.

Adelaide, a Go8 member, managed to increase its overseas enrolments by just 1,200 (14 per cent) over the same period. Growth in South Australia was strongest at Torrens University, a private institution that opened in 2014, where international enrolments rose 15-fold to about 4,700.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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