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New surveys compare relative costs of study abroad and parents’ perception of educational quality

The global investment bank HSBC continues to produce interesting research on global study destinations. This year the bank released two reports that aim to compare costs and parents’ perceptions of educational quality in destinations around the world.

An April 2014 report, The Value of Education: Springboard for success, explores the attitudes of parents in 15 countries towards their children’s education. The Value of Education survey was carried out by international market research giant Ipsos MORI. HSBC’s Retail Banking and Wealth Management Division is reporting again this month on further research it commissioned from Ipsos into comparative costs of study across a range of receiving countries.

A related commentary from HSBC connects the two reports in noting that, “Comparing The Value of Education findings with the latest cost data on attending universities abroad suggests that, broadly speaking, parents think that expensive destinations also tend to offer a higher quality of education.”

The Value of Education survey finds important regional variations in quality perceptions. Overall, however, the US remains highly regarded by parents as a high-quality education destination, with 51% of parents ranking it among their top three countries for quality followed by the UK (38%), Germany (27%), Australia (25%), and Japan (25%).

The survey also found that in countries where English is not the first language, many parents see foreign language skills as the main benefit of an education abroad.

For the second year running, HSBC finds that Australia is the most expensive destination for overseas students. The average international student, reports the bank, would need US$42,000 a year to cover both tuition fees and costs of living in Australia.

Following Australia in the cost table – and rounding out the top-five, most-expensive destinations – were Singapore, the US, the UK, and Hong Kong. Outside of those top five or six destinations in the table, the estimated costs of study begin to fall away sharply. Average annual costs for India, the least-expensive destination in the 2014 ranking, were more than US$36,000 less than Australia.


Average relative costs of study in the 15 most-expensive study destinations worldwide. Source: HSBC

Such comparisons are of course tricky at the best of times, and both tuition fees and living costs can vary widely by institution, programme of study, and location within a given destination country. In the case of the HSBC study, Ipsos made its cost calculations based on average annual 2014 undergraduate tuition fees for international students at the ten largest public universities in each country. Cost of living data, meanwhile, was based on average cost data sourced from the Expatistan website.

The majority (89%) of parents in The Value of Education survey said that they wanted their children to go to university, and nearly three quarters (74%) said they would consider sending their children abroad for a better university education. Needless to say, however, the costs of study abroad loom large in the imaginations of parents worldwide.

“Most parents see paying for education as the best financial support they can offer their children,” says HSBC. “On average, 58% of parents believe that paying for a child’s education is the best investment you can make for your children. The figure is much higher in countries such as Brazil (79%), China (77%), Indonesia and Turkey (each 75%)… But many find it difficult to plan and finance their child’s education. Of parents who fund education, 82% do so from their current income. More than half of parents wish they had started to plan and save earlier for their child’s education.”

Simon Williams, Group Head of Wealth Management at HSBC, adds: “An international education brings an extra dimension of complexity to planning, particularly financial planning. The majority of overseas education is privately funded by parents, and while the concept of a college fund is well established in the US, it is still the exception elsewhere.”

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