International Education: Cost versus Quality

Education has never been more expensive, or more highly valued, writes Iain Yule, Editorial Director for World of Expats.

The average cost of a university undergraduate education for an international student in the USA is over $36,000 a year. But at $42,000 a year, Australia is the most expensive option.

Nearly three quarters of parents around the world would consider sending their child abroad for a better university education. Half of parents globally rank the USA in their top three for countries that provide the highest quality of education, according to a report from banking group HSBC, ‘The Value of Education: Springboard for success’.

But parents may have to make a greater investment if they plan to send their children abroad for a western education because, although the perception is that ‘west is best’ in terms of quality to educate children, the reality is that the costs are high.

More than a third of parents rated the UK in their top three countries for educational quality, but the annual costs including university fees and living costs are in excess of $35,000 a year.

The report, which surveyed over 4,500 parents in 15 countries, suggests that parents recognise the value of a good education, but too many are still financially underprepared. Some 89% of parents across 15 countries said that they wanted their children to go to university, but more than half wished they had started saving earlier for their child’s education.

Simon Williams, group head of wealth management at HSBC said: “The key reasons to send children overseas are the acquisition of foreign languages, international experience, and independence. An international education brings an extra dimension of complexity to planning, particularly financial planning.

“The majority of overseas education is privately funded by parents, but while the concept of a college fund is well established in the United States, it is still the exception elsewhere. The prospect of educating children, especially if parents choose overseas education, can seem daunting, but with proper planning and an astute investment plan, most of the financial uncertainties can be eliminated.”

International Education: Cost and Quality

Country University Fees per year Cost of Living per year Cost Total per year Cost Rank Quality of Education Rank % who rank country in top 3 for Quality of Education
Australia $24,081 $18,012 $42,093 1 3 25
Singapore $18,937 $20,292 $39,229 2 6= 10
United States $24,914 $11,651 $36,564 3 1 51
United Kingdom $21,365 $13,680 $35,045 4 2 38
Hong Kong $13,444 $18,696 $32,140 5 7 6
Canada $16,746 $13,201 $29,947 6 4 20
France $247 $16,530 $16,777 7 6= 10
Malaysia $2,453 $10,488 $12,941 8 9 3
Indonesia $4,378 $8,527 $12,905 9 11= 1
Brazil $59 $12,569 $12,627 10 11= 1
Taiwan $3,338 $8,573 $11,911 11 10 2
Turkey $1,276 $10,089 $11,365 12 11= 1
China $3,844 $6,886 $10,729 13 5 13
Mexico $750 $8,710 $9,460 14 11= 1
India $581 $5,062 $5,642 15 8 5

The USA and China rate each other’s educational systems highly, putting each other in their top three for the quality of education they provide. Some 73% of Chinese parents think the USA offers a high quality education. However, it may be more cost effective for parents in the USA to send their children to university in China, with an annual overall cost of less than $11,000 per year.

  • The author of this article, Iain Yule, is Editorial Director of World of Expats – The First Destination for Expats. You can access free of charge a wealth of information on the whole expat experience at the website