Global research reveals the cost of a university education in different countries

by Ray Clancy on August 28, 2018

The United States, Australia, the UK and Canada have some of the biggest gaps in terms of the cost of a university education and the amount of money the parents of students can provide, new international research has found.

Based on international averages, a parent supporting a child’s university education contributes around US$16,000 over the course of a degree but the average student spends more than US$35,000. The average annual cost parents is US$4,804.

(Brian A. Jackson/

The research, commissioned by bank HSBC drew on the views of more than 10,000 parents and 1,500 students in 15 countries across the world, finding that parents spend the most for courses in Hong Kong at US$12,914 a year, amounting to US$51,656 for a typical four years of study.

In the United States it is US$4,329 per year and US$17,314 over four years, while in Australia it is US$4,375 per year and US$13,124 over a typical three year degree course. In Canada it is US$3,981 a year and US$11,942 over three years while in the UK it is US$3,620 per year and US$10.830 over a three year degree.

HSBC’s Value of Education research report shows parents contribute to tuition fees as well as everyday costs such as laptops, food, and books. Some 67% said they contribute to food costs, 62% give a credit card allowance and the same number give money towards transport while 60% pay fees.

More than half of parents providing financial support to a child at university saying that they cut back on leisure activities to help pay the bills. Others said they take fewer holidays. And some look for ways to increase their income, such as working extra hours or taking on a second job.

The research shows that students around the world on average spend more time in paid employment at 4.2 hours per day, than they do lecturers at 2.4 hours per day. Overall, on average some 83% of students work while studying.

The country with the highest number of working students is the United Arab Emirates at 98%, followed by China at 94%, Mexico and Hong Kong both at 92%, Australia and Malaysia at both at 89%, the US at 85%, the UK at 79% and Canada at 72%.

‘Today’s students face a big challenge balancing work and study. On an average day, students spend 3.4 hours on paid employment. That’s more than they spend in lectures, the library or studying at home,’ the report says.

‘However, most parents with a child at university would prefer them to concentrate on their education, with 77% saying the plan to take care of their child’s basic living costs so that they can focus on their university studies,’ it adds.

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