2002 – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Attachment: CAPA Submission


The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is the peak representative body representing Australia’s 155, 312 postgraduate students nationwide. CAPA was invited to provide an initial submission in response to the third line forcing notification lodged by James Cook University on 27 December 2001 with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

CAPA wishes to provide this second submission in response to the ACCC’s draft decision on this notification, released on 21 October 2002, addressing specific points raised by the Commission in the draft notice.

In this submission, CAPA comments on relevant legal issues (because CAPA believes they are pertinent to the Commission’s assessment of public benefit and detriment) and on a range of factual aspects of the Commission’s Draft Notice.

For the reasons contained in this submission, CAPA submits that the Commission should not give a notice under section 93(3A) of the Trade Practices Act.

Attachment: CAPA Paper

A CAPA research project In 2003 led to the development of a white paper on existing harassment and discrimination prevention and resolution polices in individual Universities.

Policies at 27 universities were reviewed for this study. The website of each CAPA-affiliate’s university was visited, and harassment and discrimination policies of those with on-line and reasonably locatable policies were down-loaded. It is likely that some policies were not included. This study is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to overview examples of practices currently in place.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

CAPA believes that the body responsible for allocation of APAs with stipend to institutions should ensure that scholarships are distributed to institutions in as equitable a manner as possible; institutions with a developing research profile are not disadvantaged in any formula driven allocation process awards are not tied to particular research grants or subject areas. Rather, that they are made available to institutions to distribute on the basis of merit; and institutions in receipt of scholarships provide adequate resources to postgraduate students so that effective research can be carried out.

CAPA believes that criteria for the allocation of postgraduate scholarships should include previous academic achievement, economic disadvantage, merit of project, relevant work and life experience, other relevant training experience, current enrolment in a postgraduate degree and should ensure no direct or indirect discrimination takes place. Selection criteria must be made openly available prior to the application date.

CAPA believes that, as the national representative body for postgraduate students, it should be consulted when any changes to the allocation process are being considered

Attachment: CAPA Paper

This paper lists various sources of information for data and studies on women in higher education. It is not exhaustive, but provides a basic survey of key documents, relevant statistics and reports, and the most useful government web sites.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

Submissions included are:

  • Response to the Ministerial discussion paper “Varieties of Learning”
  • Response to the Ministerial discussion paper “Meeting the Challenges”
  • Response to the Ministerial discussion paper “Varieties of Excellence”
  • Response to the Ministerial discussion paper “Setting firm Foundations”
  • Response to the Ministerial discussion paper “Striving for Quality”

Attachment: CAPA Paper

In the last 10 years, Federal Government funding to Australian Universities has been steadily decreasing. Concurrently, income from private sources has dramatically increased. Funding from fee-paying students has increased from 5 percent in 1992 to 12 percent in 1999 (AVCC, 2001) (Figure 1). As recently outlined by the Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendan Nelson, in his Overview Paper, Higher Education at the Crossroads:

“From the mid-1980s the Commonwealth encouraged Universities to find funds from other sources in order to ensure that the system, could continue to expand. Over the decade, income from fees and charges doubled mainly due to the conscious effort of Universities to attract more overseas students. The number of overseas students tripled. By 1999 revenue from fee-paying overseas students amounted to $805 million or approximately 10 percent of the sector revenue” (Nelson, 2002: 53).

Education is the tenth major export industry in Australia. International students bring not only income but also multicultural and cosmopolitan influences into our country. The education market is harsh and competition always on the increase. International students are, importantly, considered ‘Australian Residents for taxation purposes’, and pay all taxes, both income tax (if they earn a salary or wage) and Goods and Services Tax, applicable to all other Australian citizens. Unfortunately, this obligation has not proven sufficient to entitle them to equitable access to many benefits that are financed with those taxes.

International students are squeezed dry inconsiderately and the government can afford to ignore their claims for equitable treatment. In contrast to other global competitors, Australia is withdrawing the benefits that International students used to have, and worsening economic pressure under which they live.

We believe that a major change is required. If Australia wants to lead the global education market of the future, CAPA recommends that the Federal Government give serious consideration to our proposed policies. The following pages provide the argument behind our proposals.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

Attachment: CAPA Submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Government’s proposed framework for establishing national research priorities. We applaud Minister McGauran’s decision to incorporate public consultation into the priority setting process. We submit the following response to the Minister’s issues paper, Developing National Research Priorities, on behalf of all students enrolled in Australian postgraduate degrees.

CAPA is the national peak body representing Australia’s 155,312 postgraduate students. It has affiliated postgraduate associations in 34 of Australia’s public higher education institutions and in all States and Territories. Australian postgraduate students fall into two broad categories: postgraduate coursework students who number 116,913 and postgraduate research students who number 38,499.

The research undertaken by doctoral and research masters candidates, as well as the research carried out by many postgraduate coursework students for the thesis component of their degrees, is a vital part of the Australian research effort. In 1984, Margaret Powles estimated that postgraduate students contributed 35-50 per cent of universities’ research and between 10.8-15.5 per cent of Australia’s total research effort. More recently, Siddle has argued that a more accurate figure is 65-70 per cent of university research.

CAPA accepts the need to set national research priorities in order to better coordinate Australian research. However, we are concerned that without additional research funding the priority setting process becomes a zero-sum allocation: targeted funding for research priorities must be diverted from other research. We have already seen Australia’s research capacity undermined by the implementation of the Research Training Scheme in 2001, which reduced the total number of postgraduate research places from 24,980 in 2000 to 21,644 in 2001 (EFTSU).

We cannot afford to let Australian research be weakened any further. CAPA is also concerned by the Government’s decision in January this year to target 33 per cent of the 2003 Australian Research Council (ARC) funding round to four scientific research areas, thus pre-empting public consultation on appropriate research priorities. We find the priority setting process outlined in Developing National Research Priorities, with its emphasis on public consultation and broad thematic research priority areas, to be highly preferable.

The following submission contains CAPA’s suggestions for further improving the priority setting process.

Attachment: CAPA Paper

The introduction of the Research Training Scheme (RTS) has placed considerable pressure on Australian universities to improve the proportion of enrolled postgraduate research students who complete their degrees (completion rates), and to shorten the amount of time they take to do so (completion times). Universities have revised or introduced a variety of policies in order to encourage timely completions. A wealth of information on university strategies to encourage timely completion can be found in the annual Research and Research Training Management Reports (RRTMR) which universities must submit to the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) in order to fulfil the reporting requirements of the Scheme. While in many cases it is still too early to assess the impact of these policies on postgraduate research students, early indicators can be found both within university RRTMRs, and from the feedback of postgraduate student associations.

This paper provides information on the RTS for postgraduate student association office bearers or staff members who may be unfamiliar with the Scheme. It also analyses the RRTMRs of the 38 Australian public universities and identifies broad trends in terms of universities’ responses to the RTS. The intention is to provide postgraduate student associations with more detailed knowledge of the variety of university policy responses to the Scheme, and to discuss the positive or negative effects of these policies on postgraduate research students. It is hoped that this will assist postgraduate student associations to support the implementation of more ‘research-student-friendly’ policies at their universities, as well as alert them to the potential dangers of other policies.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

There is no doubt that Australian universities are currently in a state of crisis as reported in last year’s Senate Inquiry into Higher Education report Universities in Crisis. The shock-waves of the funding cuts imposed by successive Federal governments still reverberate through the sector, and there seems little light on the horizon. In this climate, it is students who don’t fit traditional stereotypes (young, fit, financially secure), who require extra human and financial resources, who suffer most.

Students with disabilities often find themselves outside of this mould, and for them, along with other equity groups (such as Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, students from low SES backgrounds, women, and NESB students), the higher education sector can be a less than welcoming place. Large classes, a lack of resources, and spiralling staff-student ratios, impact particularly on these groups.

However, the situation is not completely bleak. Since the release of the Federal policy document A Fair Chance for All: Higher Education that’s within Everyone’s Reach in 1990, and the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1992, the sector has been making (in certain areas) a concerted effort to raise the participation rate of equity groups. In this document, we seek to set out examples of best practice, as well as drawing attention to areas where improvement is needed.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is the national peak body representing Australia’s 155,272 postgraduate students. Eight of the thirty four affiliated postgraduate associations which make up CAPA’s constituency are Victorian, and as such CAPA welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this Victorian Review of University Governance.

CAPA has been concerned for some time that, in a funding environment where basic operating grants have been consistently reduced since 1996, universities around Australia have been compelled to expand their commercial operations in order to augment diminishing public funding with greater private income. Although this decrease in public investment in higher education has affected all Australian universities, the commercial decisions of the Victorian universities, especially The University of Melbourne, have been the subject of particular controversy and public criticism.

The questions raised by The University of Melbourne’s privatisation of Melbourne IT Limited, and the University’s substantial investment in the Bio21 project, Melbourne University Private Limited and universitas21 global have demonstrated the need for this review of university governance. Above all, CAPA believes that governance structures must be strengthened to protect the public’s interest in universities and their commercial activities.

This submission focuses on the following specific issues:

  • (a) whether universities’ objects or strategic plans should refer explicitly to serving the public interest by promoting critical inquiry;
  • (d) whether councils’ functions should be specified more fully;
  • (e) whether councils’ operations and quorums should be specified more fully, for example in university statues;
  • (h) whether there is a need for a national universities ombudsman;
  • (i) what might be included in a statement of best practice in university governance as it relates to commercial activity, for example, for inclusion in Ministerial guidelines.

Essentially, CAPA recommends that the enacting legislation of all Victorian universities be amended to include: specific reference to serving the public interest as an object of the university; a detailed specification of the functions, operations and quorums of the council; and guidelines and reporting requirements for all commercial activity. CAPA believes that the Universities Legislation Amendment (Financial and Other Powers) Bill 2001, recently passed in NSW, has set an admirable standard in this respect. Structures of university governance need to be strengthened nationally, in light of the increasing commercial activity of all Australian universities.

If the enacting legislation of Victorian universities is amended to be consistent with that of NSW, a strong precedent would be set for university governance in the other states and territories. The majority of Australian universities are located in Victoria and New South Wales, strengthening the likelihood that amendment of the Victorian legislation to match that of NSW would lead to other states adopting similar governance mechanisms.

CAPA also believes that this codification of universities’ public responsibilities would be positively supplemented by the creation of a national universities ombudsman to facilitate additional public review of universities’ activities. However, CAPA notes the explicit exclusion of the composition and size of university councils from the terms of reference of this review and believes that this exclusion will limit the effectiveness of the review. Nevertheless, we hope that this review will help to increase the transparency and accountability of Victorian universities.

Attachment: CAPA Paper

Specialisation has become increasingly popular in 2002 as a potential solution to the difficulties faced by the Australian higher education sector. The current funding system, encompassing 38 public universities with broadly similar missions and programmes, is unsustainable without a significant increase in public investment in higher education. In the absence of increased funding, specialisation within the sector is intended to reduce the ‘overlap’ between institutions, so that existing funding is used more efficiently.

The term specialisation is used by politicians, policy officials and academics to refer to a variety of models of differentiation between universities. In broad terms, there are two very different interpretations of the form that specialisation should take. The first views the higher education sector in horizontal terms with the process of specialisation involving each university developing specific areas of teaching and research strength, whether in particular disciplines or in methods of learning such as distance or on-line education.

The second model of specialisation views the higher education system in vertical terms with specialisation involving the development of premier research universities at the top of an institutional tier, ranked above other predominantly teaching institutions or institutions that focus on specific regionally driven research.

Public discussion of specialisation this year has tended to focus on this latter, ‘vertical’ view of specialisation, rather than the former, particularly in the calls for one or two premier, internationally competitive Australian universities. At the same time, DEST’s Educational Profiles process requires universities to identify and foster areas of research strength, which conforms more with a horizontal view of specialisation. However, in the current funding environment universities are compelled to develop areas of research strength that will attract maximum competitive grant funding and private investment.

Recent government policy has consolidated previous trends to identify a few discipline areas that will attract a disproportionately large share of funding. Industry also pursues its interest in investing in clearly defined, mainly technological, applied R&D. The result is a system where universities all compete to foster applied scientific research in the same few disciplines, rather than less marketable basic research or research in the humanities. This competition takes place in a research funding environment where funds are allocated according to previous performance, which vastly advantages the older universities over those new institutions which are yet to consolidate their research capacity or fully develop their research infrastructure.

With these issues in mind, this briefing paper provides:

  • a discussion of the political agenda on specialisation,
  • a summary of different models of specialisation proposed by politicians, policy makers and academics,
  • an assessment of the potential impact of specialisation on postgraduate students.

Sources are provided throughout the paper, and suggestions for further reading and contact details for postgraduate associations currently working in this area are provided at the end of the paper.