Beyond thinking about what country and in which university your children plan to pursue their university studies, it is also important to plan financially for their higher education.
Sending your children overseas to further their higher education is a significant decision in your family’s life journey. With so many options of destination countries, choices of universities and degrees to pursue, the decision can be exciting and daunting at the same time.
Australia, UK and US are the most popular destinations of choice for Malaysian parents and students – with about 6 out of 10 Malaysian students studying abroad choosing these three countries annually.1 Here are some things to think about when sending your child abroad.

It’s no surprise that Australia continues to be a favourite destination for Malaysian students choosing to further their education abroad due to its proximity, world-class education and living.2 About 20,000 Malaysians choose to study in Australia annually at its over 1,100 institutions offering more than 22,000 courses.3 Eight Australian universities rank in the top 100 universities in the world.3
Why Australia?
Why not? Australian universities are known to be strong proponents of internationalisation and are accustomed to welcoming large numbers of international students each year.4 It is also recognised as one of the most liveable countries in the world.3
To ensure that international students receive a high quality of education, Australia has a national regulatory and quality agency for higher education – the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) – that monitors quality and regulates university and non-university higher education providers.2 Meanwhile, The Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) will allow the qualification your children receive in Australia to be recognised around the world.3
Top Education Cities
Australia’s largest city plays host to two of the country’s prestigious Group of Eight institutions – University of New South Wales (ranked 45th in the world) and University of Sydney (ranked 50th in the world) – alongside other options like University of Technology Sydney (176th), Macquarie University (240th) and University of Western Sydney (551-600).4
The cultural capital of Australia is home to a number of the country’s top universities including the University of Melbourne (ranked joint 41st in the world) and Monash University (60th) – which are both Group of Eight institutions – as well as Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) (joint 247th), Deakin University (joint 293rd), La Trobe University (360th) and Swinburne University of Technology (421-430).4
For those hoping for weather that’s a bit closer to home, Australia’s third largest city also has quality institutions of higher learning including the University of Queensland, ranked joint 47th in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017, together with Queensland University of Technology (joint 247th) and Griffith University (joint 325th).4
The Cost
The cost of studying in Australia can vary depending on the university and course your children choose, as well as the city they are in.3 Annual fees for an undergraduate Bachelor degree ranges from AUD15,000 to AUD33,000, but high value courses such as veterinary and medicine can be higher.3
Based on the Australian government’s Department of Home Affair’s financial requirement to receive an Australian student visa, the minimum cost of living per year is estimated at AUD20,290.3 So you should expect to budget between AUD35,000 to AUD55,000 a year if your children intend to further their studies Down Under.
Applying to Australia
There is no federal or state-level application system for international students applying to universities in Australia, so your children can apply directly to the universities of their choice; the other option is to apply through an Australian education agent.3
As part of the application process to the university and for your children’s visa, they will need to fulfil certain entry requirements including:
Academic requirements.3
English language requirements.3
Evidence of funds to support your study.3
Overseas student health cover.3
Getting a Student Visa
Once your children receive the electronic Confirmation of Enrolment certificate from the university, they can then apply for their student visa themselves or through an education agent.3 The common student visa for university studies in Australia is Subclass 500.3
The typical requirements needed for the student visa include:
An electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE) certificate.3
Meet the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement.3
(More information is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.)
Sufficient funds for airfares, course fees and living costs.3
English language proficiency.3
Meet health and character requirements.3
Acceptable Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).3
Once your children have confirmed where they will be studying, you can look for accommodation for them that suits their needs and your budget. There are several options when it comes to student accommodations in Australia.
Your children can rent or lease a property by themselves or share with friends.3 This can be done through a real estate agent or privately.3 You will need to pay a security deposit or bond (usually four weeks rent) and rent in advance (also usually four weeks).3 Expect to pay between AUD165 to AUD440 per week.3
On Campus
Campus living is a good option to minimise travel.3 Most universities have comfortable and furnished apartment-style living on campus or nearby, sometimes with meals and cleaning included.3 On-campus accommodation typically costs between AUD90 to AUD280 per week.3
With homestay, your children will live with a family in their home.3 It is a good option if you want your children to have the comforts of an established home, often with meals and cleaning included.3 Families offering homestay accommodation to international students are thoroughly screened to ensure they can provide a suitable living environment for students.3 The cost of homestay accommodation ranges from AUD235 to AUD325 per week.3
United Kingdom

The United Kingdom continues to be a popular university destination for Malaysian students. For the 2015/16 enrolment year, there were just over 17,400 Malaysian students studying in the UK1 from over 400,000 international higher education students there.5 The UK is the world’s second leading study destination after the United States thanks to the strong global reputation of UK universities.6
Why UK?
UK has long been regarded as a powerhouse in the field of education and research, with some of its top universities being in existence since the 12th and 13th centuries.7 Seventy one UK universities feature in the QS World University Rankings 2018 and four institutions are currently ranked in the global top 10.6
UK universities offer a flexible study environment with a strong focus on research and innovation as well as a pathway to work with some of the best global companies operating in the country.7 Among the preferred courses in the UK are management, medical sciences, engineering, law and economics.7
Top Education Cities
The capital of UK ranks among the world’s best cities for students with an impressive 19 universities featured in the QS World University Rankings. This home to nine million people has some of the world’s best institutions: University College London and Imperial College London both ranking in the top 10 in the QS World University Rankings 2018, King’s College London (joint 23rd in the world), London School of Economics and Political Science (35th) and many more.6
Beyond being home to two of England’s popular football clubs – Manchester United and Manchester City – Manchester is also home to some of UK’s top-ranking universities including the University of Manchester (ranked 34th in the QS World University Rankings 2018), University of Salford (ranked 751-800) and Manchester Metropolitan University (ranked 801-1000).6
Oxford and Cambridge
No mention of higher education in UK would be complete without mentioning the country’s two most famous and prestigious universities. Based in the neighbouring cities of their namesake, the University of Cambridge is ranked fifth in the QS World University Rankings 2018, while the University of Oxford is sixth.6 Both Oxford and Cambridge are collegiate universities with their constituent colleges spread over the city centres.6
The Cost
Depending on the course your children decide to undertake and the university they are going to in the UK, tuition fees can vary between GBP7,000 to GBP35,000 per year for an undergraduate degree.6 In addition, you should budget at least GBP12,000 a year to cover living costs.6 If your children are studying at a university in London, living costs will be higher as rent and other costs are considerably higher in the capital than in the rest of the country.6
Applying to the UK
Applying for an undergraduate course in the UK is simple. Through the Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS), your children can register and apply to all UK universities and colleges at one place.8 The service allows you to apply for up to five courses at once for a small administration fee and UCAS handles everything else.8
As part of the online application process on the UCAS website, you will need to:
Complete the application form.8
Write a personal statement explaining why you are interested in a course, the skills you have that make you suitable, and your life experiences and achievements.8
A written reference from someone
who can confirm your ability to do the course
(like a school teacher or tutor).8
There are three application deadlines throughout the year:
January – for most undergraduate courses.8
March – for some art and design courses.8
October – for courses at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge,
or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science and dentistry.8
UCAS will contact your children with any offers from their chosen universities or colleges.8
Getting a Student Visa
Once your children have received an offer from a university or college, they can then apply for a UK student visa with the Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies document issued by the institution.7 Students 16 and over will need to apply for the Tier 4 (General) Student Visa.7
As part of the visa application, your children will need to provide the following documents:
A valid travel ID.7
Financial records showing the student can pay for the fees and expenses during the course.7
Medical test reports.7
Parental or legal guardian consent.7
There are a wide variety of accommodation options available to students in the UK. Universities and colleges will have dedicated accommodation teams that can help your children find the right type of living environment to suit their needs.9
University Owned Accommodation
Most UK universities offer places for new students in their halls of residence.9 Halls can vary from single rooms with shared kitchen and living areas to self-contained studios.9 Your children can often choose from catered halls (with a dining room where you can buy meals) to self-catered halls (with kitchens where you can cook).9 Most halls are mixed male and female, but there are single sex halls as well.9

Many students in the UK live in private, rented accommodation in the second year and onward, offering a taste of life beyond the campus.9 Most private accommodation is furnished except for personal items like kitchen utensils and bedding, and your children will also need to pay for utilities.9 Rental accommodation in the UK is strictly regulated, so your children will be able to get assistance if they have any issues.9
A homestay – where your children live with a UK family in their home – can be a great opportunity to experience UK culture first-hand.9 Your children’s university may be able to help them arrange this, or you can contact one of the homestay agencies registered with the British Council.9
United States

The United States is the world’s leading study destination for international students.10 It’s no wonder, considering the US has over 4,000 universities – more than ten times the academic institutions on average than any other country in the world.11 In 2015/2016, international student enrolment at US universities exceeded the one million mark for the first time.11
Why US?
The US boasts over 150 leading universities in the QS World University Rankings11, and 50% of the world’s top 50 universities are based in the US.10 The American higher education system is the most flexible education system in the world, which offers countless programmes and degree courses.11 At the undergraduate level, your children will have the flexibility to pursue different courses before they declare their choice of major at the end of the first year.11 Hence, if your children are undecided about a future career, they can explore different areas of interest before making a decision about their future.11
US degrees are widely recognised and accepted around the world, and often companies look positively at US degree holders because of the insights they offer from experiencing different fields of study and a broader perspective on things.11
Top Education Cities
If you want your children to be surrounded by the best and brightest students and academics, then Boston is the place to be.10 Together with the nearby town of Cambridge, Boston plays host to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University – ranked first and third in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2018 – as well as other top universities including Boston University (ranked 81st), Tufts University (joint 243rd), Boston College (joint 339th), Northeastern University (joint 346th) and Brandeis University (411-420).10
If your children don’t mind cold winters and lots of snow, the third-most populous city located in the heart of the US offers a selection of some of the best institutions in the country.10 High ranking universities in Chicago and its surrounds include the University of Chicago (9th in the QA World University Rankings 2018), Northwestern University (joint 28th), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (69th), University of Illinois, Chicago (joint 207th) and Illinois Institute of Technology (joint 395th).10
San Francisco
and the Bay Area

Beyond being home to the Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area is also home to two of the world’s most prestigious universities – Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, ranked 2nd and 27th respectively in the QS World University Rankings 2018.10 If the tech world is your children’s calling, then this city is certainly the place to be.
The Cost
As with Australia and the UK, the cost of a university education in the US can vary widely depending the university you choose, to the type of degree programme, to the location.11
It’s a safe estimate to say that if your children are pursuing a degree in the US, you should be budgeting about USD30,000 per year on tuition fees.11 Of course, if your children are enrolled in a highly ranked university, the tuition fees could be much higher; for example, MIT has set its tuition fees at USD49,580 for undergraduate studies for the 2017/18 academic year.10 Meanwhile, you should budget between USD8,000 to USD12,000 annually to cover the cost of living including accommodation, food and living expenses.12
While the cost of a university education in the US may seem high, the good news is that many students don’t have to pay full tuition fees.10 At many US universities, a majority of students receive some form of financial aid via grants, scholarships and loans.10
Applying to the US
To start your children’s university application to the US, they will need to apply directly to each of the universities they are interested in.10 Entry requirements for each university are different, but most involve completing standardised admissions test like TOEFL and SAT.10 Most universities will also ask for transcripts of their grades, recommendation letters from teachers and a personal statement as part of their application.10 According to the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange website, these are the steps for the application process to US universities:
Choose a field of study.
Make a short list of universities.
Take the standardised tests like TOEFL and SAT.
Request application materials and catalogues from universities.
Send in application together with required documents.
Receive responses from universities.
Apply for visa.
Getting a Student Visa
After your children have been accepted to study at a US university, they will be able to apply for the F-1 non-immigrant visa. In order to obtain the F-1 visa, your children will need to arrange for an interview at the US embassy and follow this process:
Pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) application fee of USD160.10
Complete a DS-160 form online and upload a photograph.10
Attend an interview with a consular officer with relevant documents.10
The embassy may request additional documents like proof of ability to cover your costs, academic preparation, etc so it is good to have these prepared for your children before the interview.10
There are three common accommodation options for students studying in the US.
Most universities have on-campus residence halls or apartments where your children can live.12 While it can be more expensive, it is a great option for first year students because they will get to know other students very fast and be fully immersed in campus life.12 Meals may also be included in your children’s on-campus accommodation.12
Off-Campus Accommodation
Your children can rent a private or shared apartment or house outside of campus, usually for a lower price than living on-campus.12 The International Office at the university can usually help your children with information about private housing and where to look for them.12 It can also be useful for temporary accommodation in the first few weeks upon arriving.12
Host Family
This accommodation alternative is only offered by a few universities.12 It is more expensive compared to living off-campus, but gives your children the extra support of a family and ingrains them in American culture quickly.12
An overseas education is a costly financial commitment and foreign exchange volatility could potentially add to the cost of funding your children’s university tuition fees and living expenses abroad. Foreign exchange rates rise and fall constantly. So if the Malaysian Ringgit were to weaken against the currency of the study destination your children have chosen i.e. AUD, GBP or USD, the cost of their tuition fees and living expenses will become more expensive in Ringgit terms.13
Planning Ahead
So where do you start? If you have decided where to send your children to further their university education, then you could start saving or investing in the study destination’s currency to cushion the impact of potential currency fluctuations. For example, if you have decided to send your children to study in Australia, you could look at hedging the Ringgit against the Australian Dollar. Forex hedging is a strategy to protect an existing or anticipated position from an unwanted move in exchange rates to minimise future downside risk.15 It is worthwhile to note that hedging is not a money making strategy.15
Choosing a Currency to Protect Against Fluctuations
Let’s use the scenario of pursuing a three-year undergraduate degree based on an annual cost of AUD50,000 in Australia using historical exchange rates as an example. So back in 2014, you made the decision to send your children to Australia to start their undergraduate degree in 2017. In 2014, the exchange rate from Ringgit to the Australian Dollar was RM3.0405 to AUD1.14 Three years later, in 2017, the Ringgit had depreciated against the Australian Dollar with an exchange rate of RM3.2459 to AUD1.14
Due to the rise of the AUD, you would have had to pay RM30,810 more to cover the cost of your children’s education in Australia over that period because of currency fluctuations.

Exchange rates are obtained from, as at 7 May 2018. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.
Protect Against Currency Fluctuations
Some possible strategies to use for hedging your Ringgit include dual currency investments, buying and holding foreign currency denominated bonds, investing overseas and investing in stocks that may benefit from Ringgit volatility.16
For example, if you are planning to send your children to the UK in the next couple of years, you could put money into HSBC’s Dual Currency Investment17 with a currency pairing of MYR and GBP or hedge against any GBP fluctuations by opening a GBP denominated Foreign Currency Time Deposit account.
If you have a longer time horizon to plan for your children’s overseas education, you could also consider investing in HSBC’s foreign currency unit trusts, bonds or perhaps invest in real estate abroad as a hedge against foreign currency movements.
Preparing for University
As a Premier customer, you can take advantage of our foreign currency services available to make your children’s transition overseas easier and more seamless. For example, you are able to open a bank account for your children overseas from Malaysia before they move abroad.
With Global View Global Transfers, you have the convenience of managing all your accounts in one place and transfer money instantly between your local and overseas HSBC accounts at no cost18. In addition, you can make convenient online transfers abroad via our Telegraphic Transfer with Real-Time FX rates to get competitive exchange rates.
To find out more about how we can help with managing your children’s higher education funds, speak to your Relationship Manager or walk into any HSBC branch today.
• Sources: 1 ICEF Monitor, Malaysian Government Cools on Study Abroad but Outbound Still Growing, 26 April 2017. 2, Study in Australia. 3 Study in Australia, Why Study in Australia?, as at 25 April 2018. 4 Top Universities, Study in Australia. 5 British Council, Want to Study in UK? 6 Top Universities, Study in the UK. 7, Study in UK. 8 Study UK, How to Apply, as at 25 April 2018. 9 Study UK, Accommodation. 10 Top Universities, Study in the US, as at 25 April 2018. 11, Study in USA. 12, Tuition Fees & Study Costs in the United States. 13 ICEF Monitor, The Relationship Between Currency Exchange and Student Mobility, 9 December 2015. 14, XE Currency Converter. 15 Investopedia, Forex Hedge. 16 The Star Online, Five Ways to Hedge Against Ringgit Volatility, 2 May 2015. 17 Dual currency investment is for Sophisticated Investor only. 18 For Premier or Advance customers only.