2004 – Statement of Minimum Resources for Postgraduate Study

Attachment: CAPA Paper

This document is a revision of CAPA’s 1997 Statement of Minimum Resources. Both the 1997 document, and this revision, reflect the belief stated in CAPA standing policy that “the provision of adequate levels of resources is vital to the effective delivery of postgraduate programs across all modes of study.”

Higher education funding and management has undergone many changes since our 1997 statement of minimum resources, however the importance of such resources remains–if anything, resources have become even more important due to the emphasis placed on ‘timely’ completions of research degrees under the RTS (4 years PhD and 2 years Masters FTE). The deregulated postgraduate coursework degree market has led to increased offerings from universities seeking to capitalise on this new income source. The Postgraduate Education Loans Scheme (PELS), while softening the adverse effects of up-front fees for coursework degrees, has resulted in dramatic fee increases at some institutions.

CAPA believes that a high-quality educational environment should be provided to all postgraduate students, in accordance with basic principles of quality, equity and diversity. CAPA believes that it is the responsibility of all institutions to consult with their stakeholders in policy development, and to ensure that students are informed of their rights and entitlements.

Since 1997, a number of institutions have put policies in place related to resources and facilities for postgraduate research students. Some of these policies set institutional minimum standards, while others are merely aspirational. We are unaware however, of any institution-wide policies on facilities and resources for postgraduate coursework students. We believe that this is due to the view, widespread throughout the sector, that the needs (both material and pedagogic) of postgraduate coursework students do not differ meaningfully from those of undergraduate students. We dispute this view.

This document sets minimum standards of facilities and resources for:

  1. all postgraduates (common needs),
  2. coursework postgraduates, and
  3. research postgraduates

Attachment: CAPA Paper

CAPA’s 2004 Policy on International Students identifies a number of issues of concern to CAPA’s international student affiliates, including:

  • the systemic discrimination of DIMIA’s five tiered assessment system, including irrational language requirements imposed by the system;
  • the cost of study visas and work permits in Australia, and postgraduation work opportunities, and
  • the cost of public primary and secondary education for the dependants of international students.

This background paper provides basic information on these issues as well as a comparative analysis with other countries where appropriate. The purpose of this paper is to serve as a resource for further CAPA policy development by the CAPA International Student’s Officer and International Student’s Committee.

Attachment: CAPA Paper

On Thursday 6th May 2004 the government announced Backing Australia’s Ability II (BAA II), a science and innovation funding and policy package extending on the similar 2001 package, Backing Australia’s Ability. The original package was due to expire in 2005, and the new package extends many of the original programs within Backing Australia’s Ability to 2011, as well as adding a number of new programs.

On May 11, the Treasurer released the 2004-05 federal budget. This budget contains funding figures for the BAA II package, but does not offer any unexpected funding for higher education. The budget contains some elements of passing interest, including the government’s revenue expectations for the student loans scheme, Fee-HELP, announced in 2003 as part of Backing Australia’s Future. During 2003 the government conducted an extensive review of the Knowledge and Innovation (K & I) research and research education policy and funding package announced in 1999 and implemented from 2001.

K & I contains the bulk of policy and funding mechanisms for postgraduate education, including the Research Training Scheme (RTS). CAPA had hoped that announcements about any changes to the RTS, and other elements of K & I, would be made with the announcement of BAA II, or with the release of the 2004 budget. While the Minister for Education has given a few hints about what is to come, no full details have yet been released.

This briefing paper is preliminary, as the package will take some time to consider fully. It overviews:

  • Backing Australia’s Ability II;
  • announcements made so far about changes to K & I, and
  • other issues pertaining to higher education to be found in the 2004-05 budget papers.

There are few programs within BAA II which will affect or benefit postgraduates.

Attachment: CAPA Paper

On 24th March the Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, released three reports on research and research education. The reports drew on a series of reviews held in 2003. The reports make recommendations only – a full research and research education funding policy package is expected to be handed down with the Federal budget on May 11.

This briefing paper outlines the key recommendation in the report Evaluation of Knowledge and Innovation Reforms Consultation Report. The review of Knowledge and Innovation is perhaps the most important for postgraduates, as it encompasses the problematic Research Training Scheme (RTS).

When the review of Knowledge and Innovation was announced in 2003, CAPA produced a background paper to assist CAPA Constituents making submissions, which is available from the CAPA web site. CAPA’s opinions about Knowledge and Innovation and the RTS will not be discussed in detail here, as they are available in that paper, as well as in CAPA’s submission to the review.

Key Features of the Paper

The most problematic feature of the paper is that its authors have decided to treat the review itself as a kind of survey. Where only a few submissions were made on a particular topic there is a tendency for the authors to remark that the paucity of opinions made the issue ‘inconclusive.’ A review is not a survey – a submission to a review posing one fine argument on an issue is important, and should outweigh a number of poor arguments, or indeed a lack of other comment. A review is a qualitative process, and to approach data gathered quantitatively is inappropriate.

Attachment: CAPA Paper

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is the peak body representing Australia’s 247,315 postgraduate students. CAPA believes in free, accessible education which allows everyone to reach their full intellectual potential. We believe education is a right, not a privilege.

Australians need to be able to access education throughout their lives. As more jobs require greater qualifications, it becomes increasingly important that citizens are not barred from achieving their potential through an inability to pay, or a need to enter into substantial levels of debt. Further, education must be accessible and affordable not just for these reasons of equity, but because an educated population benefits the whole of society, through the creation of new knowledge and applications, through the enrichment of culture, and through the sustained critique of policy and practice provided by a vibrant academic community.

Government must invest more in higher education. The current government has reduced funding by around five billion dollars since coming to office. The failure to properly index universities’ operating grants to keep up with the wage increases of university staff has eroded this funding base even more, resulting in larger classes and diminishing resources, as well as an inability to attract the best researchers and teachers into academe.

The current government has placed an ever increasing proportion of the cost of higher education on the student. On coming to power in 1996, the current government slashed HECS places in postgraduate coursework and deregulated fees. Around 130,000 Australian postgraduates now pay full fees, as well over 76,000 international students.

Most postgraduates are ineligible for income support such as Austudy. Only around 12% of research students receive a government scholarship. For partime students (who must either be carers or suffering from a medical condition) scholarships are taxed. CAPA believes there should be a decent level of income support for all those engaged in study. Further, all students should be able to access transport concessions, Rent Assistance, and other such schemes.

CAPA believes that Australia’s cultural and economic future is closely tied to its research output. We believe that government must focus its research investment on basic and public good research. We do not believe that the only valuable research is commercial research.

Postgraduates undertake 70% of university research, yet their intellectual property rights are not uniformly protected, and they are unable to access most Commonwealth research funding directly. This must change.

Finally, CAPA believes in student control of students affairs. We reject the notion of socalled ‘voluntary student unionism’. Like most in the university sector, we recognise that student associations are a valuable part of our universities, providing services and support for students, by students.

Stephen Horton
CAPA President

Attachment: CAPA Submission

CAPA’s key concern in this submission is the welfare and rights of international students. CAPA is very concerned about the number of unscrupulous agents (both education agents and migration agents) acting against the welfare of students.

The Migration Act and ESOS Act are designed to both:

  • stop migration of unsuitable/unqualified people into Australia, and
  • protect the rights of suitable/qualified migrants.

There is an essential tension between these two roles which can result in legitimate migrants or visa holders being incorrectly or inappropriately targeted and punished after making honest mistakes, through the same legislative instruments they rely on for protection. CAPA belives that the protective elements of legislation and regulation should be the focus of the current review. Strong regulation of the migration advice industry will weed out both those agents who misinform potential legitimate migrants, as well as those who facilitate illegitimate immigration – indeed it is likely that the same agents undertake both roles.

We also comment here on some issues outside of the scope of the current review relating particularly to the off-shore education advice industry. Believing that the illegitimate migration advice activities of off-shore education agents are likely to go hand in hand with illegitimate education advice activities by the same agents, CAPA recommends a broader review of the offshore education advice industry with input from both DEST and DIMIA.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is pleased to respond to the Inquiry into the Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill (No.3) 2004. In this submission we limit our response to Subsection 16-20 (1) of the Bill, which seeks to add Melbourne University Private Limited (MUPL) to the list of Table B Providers under the Higher education Support Act 2003 (HESA), making it eligible to receive Commonwealth funding.

The main issues we wish to raise here concern: the interests of MUPL’s postgraduates; MUPL’s status as a university; MUPL’s ability to access Commonwealth funding in the form of grants and other funding, and Australia’s continued good reputation within the international higher education community.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is pleased to contribute to the Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000. CAPA is the peak body representing Australia’s 247,315 postgraduate students, including its 76,877 international postgraduates.

Postgraduate student associations and committees at each of Australia’s public universities are affiliated to CAPA and contribute to CAPA policy at its Annual Council Meeting each year. International students are particularly active within CAPA, and tend to be the main cohort making use of facilities and services at postgraduate associations.

Recent CAPA research on international students includes a background paper on key issues affecting international postgraduates, Equity of Conditions for International Postgraduates Students (March 2004), available on the CAPA website, www.capa.edu.au, and included with this submission. CAPA also conducted a survey of international postgraduates conducted in October 2003. The results of the survey have not been released publicly due to the small sample size, however a brief overview is included as an appendix to this submission.

CAPA is also preparing a submission to the review of – Options for regulating migration agents overseas and the immigration related activities of education agents- being conducted by DIMIA. In our 2003 survey of international postgraduates, CAPA identified the problems with overseas education agents as one of the most pressing concerns faced by international students. While some matters concerning education agents will be presented in this submission, we will by addressing the problem primarily through our submission to DIMIA.

About this submission

Here, we focus on the first section of the Review Consultation Guide, ‘Quality Assurance’, commenting in particular on the National Code of Practice. We also comment very briefly on the section ‘Consumer protection’. We have not responded to the section ‘Migration policy’ as we are aware that other stakeholder groups who deal more directly with international students in crisis have responded in detail to this section.

In particular we refer the review panel to the submission of the Swinburne University Postgraduate Associations (SUPA). SUPA’s concerns are representative of problems faced by international students in respect of migration law and regulations. We also refer the review panel to the submission of the National Liaison Committee for International Students. Our paper, Equity of Conditions for International Postgraduates Students (March 2004), attached, may be of interest to the review panel in so far as it comments on aspects of the DIMIA assessment system, applicable to the section ‘Joined up government’.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

CAPA, the national peak body representing Australia’s 247,315 postgraduate students, welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Senate’s Inquiry into Lifelong Learning. Postgraduate study is an exceptionally important element of lifelong learning. It provides the opportunity for individuals to retrain should they need or want to change career paths, and the qualifications often necessary for progressing a career. Indeed, postgraduate qualifications are a prerequisite for entry into professions such as psychology and osteopathy. Securing and upgrading academic qualifications can be particularly important for women reentering the workforce after child-rearing. Postgraduate study also provides opportunities for students to extend their knowledge in an area of interest, and to become expert in specialised fields.

Since postgraduate study is often the key to better jobs with better conditions, and provides the opportunity for students to extend their intellectual potential, it is vital that there is equity of access into postgraduate courses and degrees for
students of all ages and socio-economic status. CAPA does not believe that current practices in postgraduate coursework support equity of access. Postgraduate coursework fees have escalated under the current government, after postgraduate coursework was almost totally deregulated when the government came to power in 1996. We believe that these fees inhibit life-long learning by preventing those with limited incomes from gaining the qualifications and training necessary to improve their professional prospects.

In this submission we focus on increased postgraduate coursework fees and inadequacies of the fee-loans system as a barrier to participation in life-long learning

Attachment: CAPA Submission

Only a minority of postgraduate students are eligible for ABSTUDY or Austudy. While our submission incorporates some issues regarding ABSTUDY and Austudy specifically as they apply to postgraduates, we wish to state our support for the more in-depth studies of these income support measures provided in the submissions to this inquiry made by CAPA’s affiliate the National Indigenous Postgraduate Association Aboriginal Corporation (NIPAAC), and the National Union of Students (NUS). We endorse their recommendations on ABSTUDY and Austudy, and have included some of them here.

Income support for postgraduate students if often overlooked in discussions of student income support. Here, as well as our comments on Austudy for postgraduates, we provide a detailed critique of the primary income support measure for postgraduate research students: the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) scholarship, which is funded by the Commonwealth under the Higher Eduction Support Act 2003. We also overview problems with university-funded scholarships.

We recognise that our submission engages with the specific Terms of Reference of this Inquiry only peripherally. We ask Senators to consider problems with postgraduate income support measures which we address here within the broad scope of this very important Inquiry, under section (d) of the Terms of Reference: alternative student income support measures. We do not believe it to be the intent of this Inquiry to exclude postgraduate student income support measures from consideration.