Fares Fair PTV position paper: Public transport concessions for Victorian postgraduate students


How many full-time postgraduate students are there in Victoria?

There are 112,235 postgraduate students in Victoria, and 70,197 of those are full-time. That’s over 70,000 full-time students who don’t get the same concessions as their undergraduate peers.

Postgraduate students represent 42% of the total student cohort, and the number of full-time domestic postgraduate students in Victoria has doubled in the last decade.

Almost 10,000 domestic postgraduate students live in regional or remote areas, approximately 15% of the total cohort.


Why do concession fares matter to postgraduate students?

According to a Universities Australia report, postgraduate students are struggling:

  • Almost half of all full-time, domestic postgraduate coursework students have incomes below the poverty line.
  • One in seven postgraduate coursework students has an income of less than $10,000 a year.
  • 74.1% of domestic postgraduate coursework students and 67.6% of domestic postgraduate research students say their financial situation is often a source of worry to them.
  • 18.3% of domestic postgraduate coursework students and 12.8% of domestic postgraduate research students regularly go without food or other necessities because they cannot afford them.
  • Transport costs make up on average 20% of postgraduate coursework students’ budgets, and are also a large expense for postgraduate research students.


Can’t postgraduate students get a Health Care Card if they need concession transport?

Jacinta Allan, the current Minister for Public Transport, has said that extending student transport concessions to full-time postgraduate students is unnecessary, because postgraduate students with low incomes that meet the eligible criteria can receive a concession through the Health Care Card.

However, all full-time undergraduate students receive travel concessions, regardless of whether they have a Health Care Card or not.

This stance penalises domestic postgraduate students who may have incomes slightly higher than the Centrelink threshold, but are still struggling to afford transport while they study full-time. Further, this does nothing to address the needs of international students, who are not eligible for Health Care Cards.


How do international postgraduate students feel about the lack of public transport concessions?

International education is Victoria’s largest export industry, generating $5.8 billion in 2015-16 and contributing to over 30,000 jobs. International student enrolments are largely driven by postgraduate students.

But despite being an important cohort for Victoria, reporting from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training shows that a lack of concessions for international students makes them feel less welcome in Victoria:

  • 90% of international students say that the lack of public transport concessions would affect their recommendation of Melbourne to other potential students.
  • 67% say that if they had known there weren’t public transport concessions available, they would have chosen somewhere else to study.
  • 57% of international students said they would be more engaged with their community if they were eligible for public transport concessions and so could travel more freely.


What does the higher education sector think about postgrad concessions?

Universities Australia has said that it strongly believes that travel concessions for full-time students should be extended to international undergraduates and to both domestic and international postgraduate students on a nationally consistent basis. Likewise, the Group pf Eight states that supporting students “should be a focus of improved Commonwealth-State cooperation, with the aim of placing domestic and international students on an equivalent basis in their ability to access student concessions”.


What public transport concessions do postgraduate students get in other Australian states?

Victoria is the only state in Australia that doesn’t give student concessions to full-time postgraduate students.

Every other state and territory offers concessions to domestic postgraduate students.

All states except Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland offer full concessions to international postgraduate students, and New South Wales and Queensland offer partial concessions to international students.

Victoria is out of step with other Australian states and territories, and needs to recognise that postgraduate students deserve the same concessions as other Australian students.