Kiwis' fees for Australian unis to rise sharply in 2018

Kiwis studying at Australian universities are in for a major price hike - but the removal of subsidies will mean more New Zealanders are eligible for student loans from the Australian government.

Starting from next year, New Zealand citizens and Australian permanent residents will be taken off the subsidised Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) plan, and forced to pay full fees.

Kiwi students are recognised in much the same way as domestic students by the Australian government - and the changes that are to be put in place will affect both demographics.

The reforms mean students will be forced to pay anywhere between AU$2000 ($2180) to AU$3600 ($3920) more if they were undertaking a four-year degree - which equates to about $18.50 per week more than they are currently paying for a university education.

Under the current system, both Kiwis and permanent residents are not eligible for student loans unless they fulfil very specific criteria - but should the proposed changes be approved by the Senate, from January 1, 2018 most Kiwi and Australian students will be able to gain access to the income-contingent loans.

A package released to explain the changes says the loans mean both Kiwis and Australians won't have to pay fees upfront, and "ensures that the contribution [they] make to the Australian economy is recognised and supported".

However when the changes take effect, access to CSPs will no longer be available - and affected students will have to pay full fees if they are enrolling in a new course. Those continuing a course they started before the changes take place will remain able to access the CSP as normal.

When asked whether Australians living in New Zealand would be the victims of some sort of retaliation as a result of the changes, Prime Minister Bill English denied that would be the case.

"We prefer to be in a situation where we have a positive relationship with Australia and Kiwis get a good deal in Australia. That's better than some sort of mutual armed war to see who can treat each other's citizens worse," he said.

However, it was clear Mr English wasn't happy that he hadn't heard about the budget reforms affecting Kiwis before they were announced.

"We want a serious discussion with them about where they're headed with this policy, rather than announcements that are made either without telling us or at short notice," he said.

"The process at the moment is unpredictable and it creates insecurity."

Mr English said 15 years ago, Australians and New Zealanders were "treated virtually like citizens of each other's countries", but says since 2002 that has started to unravel - and he claims there is now "significant uncertainty" about such an arrangement.

The changes in structure have come about as the Australian government looks to free up funds in its budget to provide more financial assistance to families.

Students have faced the full brunt of the reform, with AU$2.8 billion ($3.05 billion) in funding cuts for universities and students now having to pay more in fees.