2003 – Response to the ALP Policy Discussion Paper ‘Research: Engine Room of the Nation’

Attachment: CAPA Submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the development of the Australian Labor Party’s national research policy. We support public consultation as integral to this policy development process. We submit the following response to Senator Kim Carr’s policy discussion paper, Research Engine Room of the Nation , 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 33 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 116,813 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. National research policy is also of particular relevance to postgraduate students as the research labour force of the future. The postgraduate students of 2003 will be employed by universities, public sector research agencies and in private sector research and development (R&D).

CAPA supports the numerous positive suggestions for fostering Australian research canvassed by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in Research: Engine Room of the Nation. CAPA is heartened by the broad themes of the paper, including the importance of the research role of universities and the need for increased university funding; the need for more public investment in R&D in order to stimulate private sector R&D; and the need to support a diverse range of basic and applied research across all disciplines. This document contains discussion and recommendations on a number of specific topics within these broad themes.

The focus of CAPA’s response to Research: Engine Room of the Nation is the research capacity of universities. The educational experience of all postgraduate students, both research and coursework students, is affected by the quality of university research, the quality of the teaching informed by that research, and by the quality of university research infrastructure.