International students planning to study in Australia could face higher fees, but are likely to be offered more places after the Abbott government unveiled the biggest shake-up of the university sector in a generation.
The changes, announced as part of an A$80 billion (S$93.7 billion) cut from the Federal Education budget on Tuesday, will free Australian universities to set their own fees for domestic students from 2016. Such fees are currently capped, while those for international students are not.
There are concerns that the universities would raise fees significantly in order to recover the loss in government funding.
The average fee for an international student per year in Australia is currently about A$27,000, which is up to three times the average fee for local students.
But analysts said the precise impact on the large cohort of international students, including thousands from Singapore, remains unclear. They added that while fees for foreign students could go up, there are some scenarios where they may end up paying less.
Dr Tim Pitman, an expert on Australian higher education from Curtin University, told The Straits Times: "I think it is very unlikely that international student fees will go down.
"If Australian students are willing to pay more, universities could potentially raise international fees so that they have room to push up domestic student fees."
But Dr Pitman also suggested that second-tier institutions could charge lower fees in order to draw more foreign applicants.
Australia's Education Minister, Mr Christopher Pyne, said he did not believe the changes would have a "significant" impact on international fees.