Cheapest Student Cities in Australia | Top Universities

Cheapest Student Cities in Australia

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Sabrina Collier

Updated Jul 01, 2023



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There are plenty of reasons why you’d want to study in Australia: great weather, a laid-back, diverse culture, sandy beaches and highly regarded universities. Unfortunately, a big drawback is the high price tag – in order to get a student visa, you’ll need to show you have at least AU$20,209 for living costs a year, which is roughly US$13,900, or evidence that a spouse or your parents can support you.

Following the recent launch of the QS Best Student Cities 2019, in which seven Australian cities were included among the world’s top 100 places to be a student, we thought we’d count down the Australian cities which performed best for affordability, one of the six indicators used to compile the ranking. This indicator takes into account both average tuition fees and living costs, based on Mercer’s Cost of Living Rankings.

5. Melbourne


Also the highest-ranked Australian city overall, Melbourne is ranked 105th for affordability, with average annual tuition fees of US$24,500 for international undergraduates, which is around the mid-range for Australian cities, and Melbourne has relatively high living costs.

Rent is highest in the city center, with RMIT University estimating costs of AU$200-300 per week for shared accommodation. Accommodation will cost at least half of this in a suburb such as Brunswick or Bundoora, although you’ll have to pay more on transport. However due to the city placing an impressive third in the QS Best Student Cities 2019 index, you may decide that studying in this city is well worth the higher costs

4. Brisbane


Ranked 22nd overall in the QS Best Student Cities ranking, Brisbane comes fourth for affordability out of Australia’s cities featured in the QS Best Student Cities 2019.   

International undergraduates pay an average of US$25,600 a year at Brisbane’s ranked universities, and living costs are lower than many major Australian cities, with students needing around AU$500 (~US$345) a week for their expenses according to Queensland University of Technology (QUT).  

3. Adelaide


Based in South Australia, the third-most affordable Australian student city is Adelaide, despite average tuition fees which are among the highest in the country, at US$24,500 per year (for international undergraduates). However, living costs are generally lower than you’d find in Sydney or Melbourne, with Numbeo currently estimating that rent is around 49 percent lower than Sydney (as of July 2019). You’ll probably spend around AU$135-385 (~US$90-265) a week on rent according to the University of Adelaide, with the most affordable suburbs to the north of the city, such as Brahma Lodge or Rostrevor.

=1. Canberra


Canberra is the second most affordable option for those looking to study in Australia, ranked 94th in the world for affordability (up five places this year). International undergraduate tuition fees average around US$22,400, which is lower than all other ranked Australian cities except Gold Coast, and has dropped significantly this year. Canberra’s highest-ranked university, Australian National University (ANU) has estimated students’ typical costs here.

1. Gold Coast

Gold Coast

Ranked first for affordability in Australia (89th globally), Gold Coast is as idyllic as it sounds. Rent in this tourist hotspot is around 40 percent lower than Sydney and tuition fees for international undergraduates average US$20,600 a year, lower than all of the other Australian cities ranked this year. As usual, fees will be a little lower at public universities (such as Griffith University), compared to private universities.

Other Australian cities

Sydney was the least affordable Australian city in the QS Best Student Cities ranking. However, its expensiveness doesn’t seem to be putting students off, as it’s ranked second in the world for desirability; an indicator that takes into account the safety, pollution, and corruption in a city, as well as students’ views of it.

The other Australian city to be ranked this year is Perth. International undergraduate tuition fees in this city are more expensive than the five destinations listed above, and average US$25,700. If you do study in Perth and find yourself a bit strapped for cash, there are still plenty of free things you can do.

You can get a further breakdown of the typical costs of studying in Australia here, and can find scholarships to study in Australia here.

This article was originally published in May 2018. It was updated in August 2019.

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