Loophole 'benefits foreign students'

THE National Rental Affordability Scheme that helped fund the University of Tasmania's new student accommodation is to be scrutinised over claims that wealthy international students are instead living in the apartments.

In a story published in  The Australian  yesterday, federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews is expected to conduct a review of the scheme and tighten loopholes that have allowed Australian universities to access funding and build accommodation primarily for lucrative international students.

The University of Tasmania is on track to have four lots of apartments completed by the start of the 2016 academic year with funding from the scheme - that at the Newnham [180 apartments] and Inveresk [120 apartments] campuses in Launceston, West Park at Burnie [40 apartments] and Melville Street [430 apartments] in Hobart.

The Newnham apartments, which are all occupied, opened for students at the start of semester one in February, with a lease term of 42 weeks and cost $187 a week.

The university's commercial services executive director Jacinta Young said yesterday all of the university's developments supported by the NRAS were in line with government guidelines, including an annual income test.

Vice chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said in February, 30 per cent of the accommodation at Newnham would be occupied by international students.

According to the university's website local and international students seeking an apartment at the Newnham campus had to meet certain criteria including an individual gross annual income of less than $A45,956.

Ms Young said there was a clear demand from students for affordable housing.

``Our NRAS projects in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart are an important part of UTAS meeting its mission of increasing higher education participation rates in Tasmania, especially important given the state's relative economic and social challenges,'' she said.

Under the scheme accommodation at the university is 25 per cent below market value.

The university has plans to double the number of international students from 3000 to 8000 over the next five years.

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