For some, brand is everything. Others can quite happily appreciate no-name, no-frills products. It all depends on circumstance and needs, and when considering an MBA, it’s no different.

In Australia, just as in other markets, some MBA programs have long profited from reputation. This makes sense. After all, if an MBA from a certain institution and with a certain reputation is more likely to earn the graduate a role at a particular type of organisation, or in a specific type of industry, then that premium could be money well spent.

However, at the other end of the Australian MBA price scale are the courses offering value. They bring participants a full and broad education, introducing a powerful, new set of business skills, but without the bells and whistles – and expense – of their pricier cousins.

These courses also meet the needs of certain candidates, and it’s an increasingly large cohort. Those interested in cheaper Australian online MBAs might include entrepreneurs, individuals interested in working within startups, people who want to run their own business, work in the SME environment, or those simply working outside major banking and finance organisations.

And why not? When you can spend just $16,992 on an online MBA from CQU, and come out of the degree with a powerful understanding of the intricacies of the business world, it leaves an extra $45,408 in the bank compared to QUT’s $62,400 online MBA. That’s a healthy chunk of budget to use to launch a business, support a startup or spend on a new marketing campaign to match your much-improved level of strategic business knowledge.

What’s the average cost of an MBA in Australia?

When comparing prices of online MBAs in Australia, it can help to begin in the middle.

The average price of any type of MBA in Australia is just over $58,000. This includes on-campus and online MBAs. The most expensive is University of Melbourne’s Senior Executive MBA, which will set you back $126,000. The cheapest is CQU’s online offering, at $16,992.

While many on-campus MBAs are offered partly online, the 100% online courses range in cost from the CQU offering to QUT’s $62,400 online MBA.

University Cost
QUT Online Digital $62,400
AGSM @ UNSW $59,760
Swinburne University $43,500
Southern Cross University $43,200
University of Tasmania $41,776
Kaplan Business School $40,800
James Cook University $39,300
Australian Catholic University $38,712
Australian Institute of Business $35,964
University of Queensland $35,280
Ducere $33,600
Macquarie University Global MBA $33,000
Australian Institute of Management $32,400
Central Queensland University $16,992

They average out at just over $40,000, but none of the cheapest five online MBAs in Australia need to set you back any more than $35,280 in course fees.

Australia’s five cheapest online MBAs

  • Central Queensland University – $16,992
  • Australian Institute of Management – $32,400
  • Macquarie University Global MBA – $33,000
  • Ducere Global Business School – $33,600
  • University of Southern Queensland – $35,280

What about the cheapest price per unit?

MBA courses are typically split up into units, or subject areas. Each unit covers a specific topic, or a section of a topic area, such as marketing, HR, people management, accounting, etc.

Southern Cross University’s 100% online MBA, for example, requires 16 units to be completed, at $2700 per unit, for a total cost of $43,200. Course duration is two years part time and there are six intakes spread throughout each year, allowing great flexibility of start time. There are even early exit options that add up to a graduate certificate (four units) or a graduate diploma (eight units).

Core units include:

  • Management communication
  • Organisational behaviour
  • Economics and quantitative
  • Accounting for managers
  • Marketing
  • Finance for managers
  • Corporate governance for managers
  • The positive leader
  • Project management principles
  • Global business
  • Strategy and case analysis
  • Managing information systems
  • Industry research project

The final units can be chosen from a list of electives to help shape the course to the participant’s unique needs.

And so, courses can also be compared in terms of these unit costs.

This is important – some courses have cheaper unit costs but require the completion of more units, and vice-versa. This could mean that, as a course can be spread over several years, the costs of a more expensive MBA can be lessened on an annual basis.

For example, unit costs of Macquarie University’s Global MBA are just $1375 each, but 24 units are required for graduation from the $33,000 course, which can be completed over 18 months to four years.

How do these examples compare to other online MBAs in Australia? It pays to contact the administrators of the courses you’re interested in to make a comparison of unit fees, number of units and period of time over which it’s deemed acceptable to complete those units.

What are the cost benefits of an online MBA?

Even more impressive than the money saved enrolling in a cheaper MBA is the cost benefit of doing an online MBA, as opposed to a traditional, on-campus MBA.

The biggest and most potentially financially damaging fact about a full-time, on-campus MBA is that the candidate has to leave their job. That can represent an enormous blow, one that is often an immediate deal-breaker. Of course, part-time work can, and often is, undertaken, but this is a poor replacement for a full-time wage.

Next is the potential professional cost of a year or two of career development lost, although this should ultimately be outweighed by far higher levels of knowledge, and the respect the MBA will offer the graduate once they’re back in the workforce.

Then there are the potential accommodation and travel costs. To attend an on-campus MBA, travel is almost always involved, whether it’s a short drive with parking costs, a bus or train trip, or a longer journey. Often, students have to move to be closer to the campus, adding rental costs and other expenses related to living outside of home.

Finally, on-campus MBAs famously require off-campus excursions. These could vary from a visit to an office in the local CBD to a full, overseas trip to explore other markets. They also commonly involve paid memberships to various clubs, both professional and social, as part of the networking and learning experience.

Research around certain on-campus MBAs in the US by Bloomberg Businessweek found hidden annual costs of over US$18,000 (around AUD$25,000 in 2020). That’s every year!

Online MBAs, on the other hand, involve few such costs. They are flexible, so can be fitted around current work and other responsibilities. They don’t cause career interruption – in fact they often encourage integration with projects in current jobs, and they rarely require travel, excursion costs and social or professional club memberships.

Of course, they can also be completed from the comfort of your home / office / café, etc., meaning the massive cost of accommodation near the campus is no longer a part of the cost equation.

Other way to judge cheapest / best value online MBAs

One further way to judge the comparative value of online MBAs in Australia is to consider how they rate by rankings and cost.

There are several ways to do this, depending on which ranking system suits your purpose (see our thorough story on MBA rankings systems HERE). Some, such as QS Rankings, focus internationally and quite deeply on academic and employer reputation.

Others, such as AFR Boss, judge Australian institutions only and conduct surveys with alumni and schools before tabulating results. CEO magazine also sticks to local institutions and has a complex and variously weighted set of data points it utilises before judging rankings.

And Times Higher Education, with its international focus, judges courses across five areas, including teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income.

Finally, it’s also worth looking into the accreditation of each online MBA.

Courses might be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) or the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) Programme Accreditation System (EPAS), or more. These are external measures of whether a course is of a certain quality and whether it strikes the correct balances between practical relevance and academic rigour.

Whichever way you measure the value of an MBA, it is no longer a course that has to bring with it the risk of a damaging financial outcome. Particularly since the rise and rise of online MBAs in Australia, the MBA is increasingly a degree that is available to a broad cross-section of people in and around business.