The University of Otago is offering $10,000 scholarships for international students willing to start their first year completely online.
The ‘Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for International Students — Online’ offers a discount of $10,000 on tuition fees for international undergraduate students “currently living outside of New Zealand” and who “intend to enrol for full-time study in the first-year of an undergraduate degree offered online in 2021.” With New Zealand’s borders currently closed to almost all international students, this means that anybody accepting this offer will likely complete their first year of study from overseas.
As all eligible students who have received an Offer of Place will receive a scholarship, this is effectively a $10,000 discount for international students’ tuition fees. However, only some programmes can be taught fully online: these are certain majors for the Bachelor of Arts, the Bachelor of Commerce, and the Bachelor of Arts and Commerce conjoint degree.
With international students’ fees for these courses ranging from $27,156 (most Arts majors) to $30,172 (for the Bachelor of Arts and Commerce), any international students taking up this offer will still be paying close to $20,000 per year to attend lectures online.
Jason Cushen, the University’s International Director, called these fees “highly competitive and […] good value when compared to competitor institutions.” Indeed, a quick check of other New Zealand universities found international student fees of almost $30,000 per year to be depressingly common.
Jason defended the University’s approach, arguing it was a continuation of the “online/distance study opportunities” they had offered for many years, that the costs of needing to deliver courses both online and on-campus are “similar, and higher in some instances,” and confirmed that any students who can return to campus from overseas “will be able to switch to in-person study.” When asked about whether he thought sufficient academic and pastoral support for online students was available, he simply replied “Yes.”
Sam, a student, called the scheme “a bit messed up,” although he considered it probably necessary, as “we are in very special circumstances.” “God no,” added Josh, another student, when they were asked if they would want to do their first year online.
Ash, another student, called the scholarship “interesting,” but conceded that if he was offered a discount on fees, he “probably would have” done his first year online.