International students pay up to 400 per cent more than Australians when it comes to higher education. The reason, according to former neuroscientist Peter Osborne, has nothing to do with taxes and everything to do with enforcing national privilege.
A university education, a basic science or arts degree. What is it for?
Is it to give you a job? This once-upon-a-time truth is outdated by at least a generation; perhaps it's not that simple now, a little more nuanced.
Let me cherry pick some excerpts from the introductory messages that preface some Australian university websites.
If we are going to be egregious nationalistic opportunists, then let's be consistent and blatantly charge all foreigners in Australia more for everything.
Melbourne University marketing materials boast of 'educating tomorrow's leaders' and breaking 'new ground in solving the world's grand challenges through research, and strengthen communities near and afar'.
In the 2013 Sydney University International Undergraduate Guide, Dr Michael Spence, vice chancellor and principal, said, 'We aim to create a university where the brightest researchers and the most promising students can thrive, no matter what their social or cultural background. Realise your full potential at the University of Sydney—together we can make a difference'.
Meanwhile, as a University of Queensland student, 'you will have every opportunity to excel in learning, and in life'. Among its offerings, UQ boasts a 'comprehensive range of programs, world class learning environments, state-of-the-art facilities, and amazing experiences outside the lecture theatre'.
I could continue, but I think you are starting to see the picture projected by these universities' PR teams. The emphasis of these messages seems to be less on jobs and more on imparting the knowledge that these are great institutions and you too can become great by association. It all sounds very inspirational and humanitarian, and well suited to the name 'higher education'.
But let me make reference to some facts from the Australian Government Higher Education Statistics.
In 2012, a total of 299,474 students graduated from Australian universities, and roughly a third of these were overseas students.
It is great to see so many overseas students making their way to Australia, successfully battling through the headwinds of language, culture and financing to study at and graduate from Australia's world class universities.
My concern is that we don't treat these students as equals. From the very outset they are not equal: despite their fine words, these universities charge overseas students significantly more to study than Australian nationals.