Santa will be delivering a lump of coal to Macquarie University this year after they announced the forcible closure of Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association (MUPRA) and locked elected student representatives out of their offices just five days before Christmas.
“Macquarie University has said ‘bah humbug’ to postgraduate students and their democratically elected student representative body just five days before Christmas” said Meghan Hopper, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
“Making this announcement on the final business day before the Christmas closure is a deliberate ploy to attempt to avoid scrutiny from the postgraduate students, national student representatives and parliamentary representatives, like Senator Lee Rhiannon, who have vowed to support the Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association” Ms Hopper said.
MUPRA President, Doug Williamson said that he arrived on campus today to discover that his office had been locked by the University and that he was unable to access MUPRA files or his personal items as security staff were attending their Christmas party.
“The attempt to forcibly close MUPRA demonstrates the completion of the corporatisation of university culture at Macquarie University as they remove all forms of student representation” said Doug Williamson.
“MUPRA views Macquarie University’s actions as quite a blatant cash grab for assets that ultimately, don’t belong to the University – they belong to students, and should remain in the property of students” Mr Williamson said.
Macquarie University Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students and Registrar), Deirdre Anderson distributed a letter to students and staff today announcing that they would begin today to act toward the shutting down of MUPRA.
In her letter, she cited concerns around MUPRA’s decision to hold a recent election to elect their 2014 office-bearer team, suggesting that the University’s intention was to have MUPRA’s existing funds redirected toward postgraduate scholarships and have MUPRA operate as a “social networking organisation”.
“MUPRA’s terms of reference are to exist as an independent, democratically-elected student representative body – it is frankly bizarre to ask them to return funding they received to complete this task years ago, or to ask them to cede student representation and advocacy to a committee of students appointed by the University” Ms Hopper said.
“That MUPRA held an election for their 2014 office-bearer team shows that they are serious about continuing to provide democratic representation on campus, and that the University’s claims otherwise are nonsense.”
Ms Hopper said that the closure of student representation for postgraduates didn’t make sense as Macquarie University pushed forward toward a postgraduate-centric course offering.
“Macquarie University’s new model which blends Honours qualifications into Masters programs means that they will experience a surge in postgraduate enrolments. The closure of MUPRA would mean that these new postgraduates would not be represented – this is not something the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations intends to see happen” Ms Hopper said.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is investigating whether Macquarie University’s actions comply with SSAF legislation, and will arrange a peaceful protest at the campus once the University re-opens in the New Year.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations congratulates the Labor Opposition on its decision not to back the $2.3bn cuts to the higher education sector when Parliament and the Senate vote on them over the next week.
“The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has been strongly opposed to any cuts to higher education funding from day one, and it’s great to see the Labor Opposition join us in support of students,” said President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, Meghan Hopper.
“Students will be relieved to know that with the help of the Labor Opposition, the Greens and Independents like Andrew Wilkie, the vote to pass the $2.3bn cuts should fail in the Senate,” Ms Hopper said.
The $2.3bn cuts to the higher education sector were originally announced by the Labor Party in Government earlier this year and were intended to help fund the Better Schools Plan, which was based on the outcomes of the Gonski Review.
“Prior to the election, CAPA expressed concerns that while the Labor Party was robbing Peter to pay Paul with their funding swap from Universities to schools, the Coalition intended to simply rob students – then run away with their money,” said Ms Hopper.
“This concern has come to bear, with the Coalition confirming that they will push ahead with $2.3 billion in cuts to higher education funding, even as they make daily changes to the way they intend to fund schools,” Ms Hopper said.
“World-class school students expect world-class universities – it makes absolutely no sense to fund one while you are gutting the other,” said Ms Hopper.
In an announcement earlier today, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Senator Kim Carr said that Labor only supported savings in the higher education sector where they contributed to their six-year Better Schools plan.
“The savings we identified… were proposed for the very specific purpose of funding Labor’s $11.5 billion Better Schools Plan,” Senator Carr said in a statement.
“The Abbott Government has abandoned proper funding and a meaningful six year reform program,” said Senator Carr.
Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President
Opposition Spokesperson for Higher Education Senator Brett Mason appears to be hiding from students as the election enters the home stretch, refusing to attend a pre-scheduled meeting with postgraduate leaders at his office in Queensland this morning.
Senator Mason was scheduled to meet with two representatives of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations this morning at 10am to receive over 500 postcards signed by postgraduates from Universities across Australia as part of the ‘Polls for Postgrads’ campaign.
When Jason McNeil and Md. Zahirul Islam, both representatives at Griffith University Postgraduate Students’ Association, arrived at Senator Mason’s office at the scheduled time to present him with his postcards and take a photograph, they were told that the Senator was no longer prepared to meet with them and was “otherwise engaged”.
“Senator Mason refusing to meet with leaders of the postgraduate community does not set a good precedent for the level of consultation students can expect under a Coalition Government,” said President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, Meghan Hopper.
“I suspect Senator Mason is hiding from postgraduates following his party’s shameful announcement yesterday that they intend to politicise the Australian Research Council grants process,” said Ms Hopper.
“Over 500 postgraduates have sent a message to Senator Mason loud and clear that they want a potential Coalition Government to value the Student Services and Amenities Fee, provide better funding to higher education, promote a more secure academic workforce and support a sector that commits to the student experience – all goals of the Polls for Postgrads campaign held by CAPA over the past two weeks,” Ms Hopper said.
“Now Senator Mason refuses to meet with the postgraduate representatives who have delivered that message.”
Jason McNeil said he was perplexed by Senator Mason’s decision to cancel their meeting without notice.
“GriffithUniversity obviously falls within Senator Mason’s electorate and as a Queensland voter, I’m concerned that Senator Mason doesn’t want to hear from local postgraduate students about what is important to them this election,” Mr McNeil said.
Md. Zahirul Islam said the incident was “disgraceful”.
Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has expressed its strong opposition to today’s announcement from the Coalition that they would seek to control the ARC grant process by directing funds away from projects they deem to be “wasteful”.
“This announcement goes to the very heart of academic integrity and the independence of the research process,” said Meghan Hopper, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
The Coalition announced today that it will “re-prioritise” $900m in funding for ARC projects it deems to be “wasteful”.
“What role do politicians have to act as the arbiters for what research is “useful”? All ARC grants go through a rigorous process of peer review and all research contributes to Australia’s knowledge,” Ms Hopper said.
“Higher Degree by Research students are already struggling under the weight of funding cuts to the higher education sector, and an increasingly casualised workforce. Now, the Coalition wants to put them through a process of political assessment to determine whether their research is valuable – it’s out of control,” said Ms Hopper.
“This is in particular an attack on the Humanities and Social Sciences, which are already undervalued in terms of the immense benefit they deliver to the Australian society and economy,” said Ms Hopper.
“Australia’s goal should be to attract the best researchers across a range of vital fields, not to politically interfere in the integrity of the research process and to limit our scope of research to the sciences, as vital as that field is,” Ms Hopper said.
Ms Hopper joked that the Coalition was unlikely to see the value in her particular field of research.
“I’m completing a PhD in feminism and the role of political journalism in Australia, two things I doubt a Coalition-controlled research scheme would be interested in funding,” she said.
Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President
From Monday August 26th, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is Going to the Polls for Postgrads at twenty-five University campuses across Australia.
The Going to the Polls for Postgrads campaign will be launched at the University of Tasmania’s Sandy Bay campus today, Monday August 26th, with an information stall outside the Morris Miller library from 11.30am attended by the President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, Meghan Hopper, as well as representatives of the Tasmania University Union.
“Over the final two weeks of the Federal election campaign, we’ll be asking students at twenty-five campuses across Australia to Go to the Polls for Postgrads,” said Meghan Hopper, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
Students will be asked to complete postcards to the Higher Education spokespeople of the three major parties: Senator Kim Carr from the Government, Senator Brett Mason from the Opposition and Senator Lee Rhiannon from The Greens.
These postcards address the campaign’s major goals of strengthening and maintaining the Student Services and Amenities Fee; a 10% increase in higher education funding as per the Bradley Review; a secure academic workforce; a student-centric e-learning approach; a sector that focuses on knowledge outcomes, not business outcomes; and marriage equality.
In the final days of the election, CAPA representatives will present postcards from postgraduate students across the country, in person at the offices of the three Higher Education spokespeople.
“The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is not interested in ‘ranking’ the major political parties through a traditional scoring approach – we’ll be presenting all of the information on the policies that are important to postgrads and where the major parties stand, and we’ll leave it up to postgrads to make up their own minds,” Ms Hopper said.
“Regardless of who ends up as the Minister for Higher Education and Research post-September 7, our goal is to put the concerns of postgraduate and Higher Degree by Research students firmly on their radar through a campaign that is issue-based and party-neutral,” said Ms Hopper.
Sample Postcard Attached.
www.capa.edu.au / Facebook: CAPA.Au / Twitter: @CAPAPresident
Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President
The following campus associations are included in the Going to the Polls for Postgrads campaign:
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is joining forces with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) for a National Day of Action on Tuesday 20 August to champion the cause of publicly-funded and properly-funded higher education.
“Higher Education hasn’t been the hot topic in the media or amongst the major parties this election campaign, but it should be,” said Meghan Hopper, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
“As we prepare to launch our Go to the Polls for Postgrads campaign blitz in the final fortnight of the election campaign on campuses across Australia, the National Day of Action is an opportunity for postgraduate students to rally together with their undergraduate and staff comrades and put higher education on the national radar,” Ms Hopper said.
“Postgraduates are rightly concerned about what the future of our education looks like after September 7.”
“We’ve had cuts of $2.3bn to higher education earlier this year from the Labor Government, $0.9bn to research late last year, while the Coalition has committed to more of the same – plus the reversal of the Student Services and Amenities Fee in the event that they take control of the Senate,” Ms Hopper said.
“As we have already seen through data released by Universities Australia, the impact of these cuts is highest on postgraduate students – full fee postgraduate student numbers could drop by up to 30 per cent in the next four years,” said Ms Hopper.
“We’re now in an environment where you need a postgraduate degree to qualify for any number of careers, but only the most wealthy can afford it.”
Jeannie Rea, President of the National Tertiary Education Union, said the Labor Government’s so-called $2.3 billion ‘efficiency dividend’ in April was already leading to staff job losses, course cuts, more crowded classes, and less help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“This cannot go on. Properly funded universities and properly supported students are essential for a smart future for Australia,” said Ms Rea.
Jade Tyrrell, President of the National Union of Students, said “Students in universities and TAFEs across the country feel sidelined and are devastated by the cuts announced earlier this year.
“Funding for higher education has now become an election issue, and we need our politicians to fight harder and find the funds for a desperately needed increase. Without an injection of more funds, the quality of our education will suffer and we are concerned the solution to make up the shortfall will be more student debt, particularly if the Coalition wins government,” said Ms Tyrrell.
Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) are calling upon university staff and students to participate in a National Day of Action on 20 August in support of publicly funded higher education.
We are also calling upon VET and school teachers and students, parents, employers, unionists and other members of the community to support our call to make education, including higher education, an issue in this year’s federal election. When we call for education for all – we mean from early childhood to higher degrees. Higher education should be available regardless of background or circumstance, but the costs of education keep increasing. Over one million students are now enrolled in higher education, but class sizes have almost doubled and half of the teaching is done by academics employed casually. The high quality of education we expect from our universities will suffer without better funding.
Back in April, the Labor Government cut $2.3 billion out of higher education to fund school education. Across the country there was outrage. The ‘efficiency dividend’ is leading to more staff job losses, more crowded classes and less help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The replacement of the Student Start-up Scholarships with a loan will add to the unreasonable debt many students already face upon graduation. The Coalition pledged to support these cuts. The Labor Government, after making grand promises to higher education, cut $4 billion in two years. The Coalition is looking to students to pay for the funding gap.
Rallies have been organised in key centres with more events on campuses.
National Tertiary Education Union members at a number of universities are considering industrial action on 20 August to support enterprise bargaining negotiations on key issues including workloads and job security. The NTEU Branches at these universities have successfully conducted ballots of members and are already engaged in protected industrial action.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is part of the #ScraptheCap alliance, a group of peak bodies united against the recently announced $2,000 cap on tax deductions for self-education expenses. This is a policy that disproportionately disadvantages postgraduate students. Many prospective full-fee paying postgraduate coursework students will no longer be in a financial position to return to study if this policy is implemented. Similarly, it overlooks the extra expenses associated with being a Higher Degree by Research student, such as conference attendance.
YOU CAN SUPPORT THE #SCRAPTHECAP CAMPAIGN by signing on to the petition at www.scrapthecap.com.au. You can also submit your story of how this policy will affect you, as part of the #ScraptheCap overall submission to Government.
Data released today by Universities Australia has confirmed that postgraduate students will be hardest hit by a cap on tax-deductable education expenses, with full fee student numbers likely to drop by up to 30 per cent in four years, says the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
“The cap on tax-deductible education-related expenses has been largely lauded by the Government as only disadvantaging wealthy students attempting to rort the system, when in fact we have suspected from the start, and data from Universities Australia today confirms, that postgraduates will be the hardest hit,” said Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations President, Ms Meghan Hopper.
“The data released by Universities Australia today illustrates that the effective cost of enrolling in full-fee postgraduate education will increase by at least 30 per cent, and as much as 54 per cent – figures that are alarming to the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and the students we represent,” Ms Hopper said.
“This adds to the impact of the 2012 Mid-Year Budget Review, where income support for postgraduate coursework students, long promised by the Government, was pushed back by a further three years,” Ms Hopper said.
“We need to shift this perception that postgraduate coursework students are somehow more wealthy than undergraduate students and therefore able to afford an endless litany of extra costs,” Ms Hopper said.
“The reality is that in many fields of work, a postgraduate qualification is becoming a requirement. With some institutions moving to models that require postgraduate study in order to gain a qualification such as law, we are seeing more and more students undertaking postgraduate coursework studies,” said Ms Hopper.
“Capping tax-deductible education expenses and continuing to push out the availability of income support for postgraduate coursework students makes postgraduate study something that is accessible only to the privileged few – it is an enormous equity concern, one that the Labor Government should address,” Ms Hopper said.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations was one of the first peak bodies to join the Universities Australia #ScraptheCap alliance, which is calling on the Government to drop the $2,000 cap on education-related expenses that can be claimed on tax.
#ScraptheCap Alliance: www.scrapthecap.com.au
Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is aware that an article regarding a Senate candidate for the Palmer United Party in the State of Western Australia has been published today in the Australian Financial Review.
This article addresses the candidate’s former relationship with the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and makes claims regarding our financial validity as an organisation.
We became aware that this article was in production mid-last week and sought the opportunity to contribute comment to the Australian Financial Review but were unfortunately denied this opportunity.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations does not dispute this candidate’s ability to speak about the Higher Education and Research sector as a PhD candidate, an academic staff member at Curtin University and a former representative of that University’s postgraduate population in a variety of capacities.
However, given this candidate’s previous association with the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, we wish to make a statement regarding her candidacy at this time.
Chamonix Terblanche resigned from her role as President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations mid-way through her term in August, 2012.
Ms Terblanche then attempted to undertake a public campaign to undermine and destabilise the organisation.
This campaign has ultimately been unsuccessful, with the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations recently closing our most successful six-month financial period since the implementation of Voluntary Student Unionism. We have also welcomed one new affiliate to CAPA, and welcomed back five paid affiliates who had been unable to support CAPA in recent years, in the period since Ms Terblanche’s resignation.
We are looking forward to continuing to contribute to the national debate around higher education through a substantive, non-partisan, policy-driven campaign which we will orchestrate in the lead-up to the upcoming Federal Election.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is a non-partisan organisation and does not endorse the candidacy of any current or former officeholders in the upcoming Federal Election.
Disclosure: Meghan Hopper is a member of the Australian Labor Party.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has tonight welcomed the Government’s announcement of a further $96.7 million over five years toward Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) for postgraduate and sub-bachelor courses, but has called on Universities and the Government to ensure that an even number of the University-negotiated places will go to postgraduate students.
“$96.7 million in further CSP funding toward postgraduate and sub-bachelor courses is a positive step, but the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is concerned about the university-negotiated nature of the distribution of places,” said Meghan Hopper, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
“This Budget promise will result in 1,650 extra Commonwealth Supported Places each year from 2014 to 2017 within Government priority areas such as teaching and language courses, fields in which many are undertaking postgraduate study,” said Ms Hopper.
“However, it is up to Universities to individually negotiate the distribution of these places, and this leads to questions around how many of these places will find their way to postgraduate students,” Ms Hopper said.
“We are worried that there may be a tendency to overwhelmingly favour funding of sub-bachelor places as part of a move to encourage students into further undergraduate study, with the result being that the postgraduate spaces we have the potential to fund under these Budget increases, will be neglected,” said Ms Hopper.
Sub-Bachelor qualifications are courses which may lead to undergraduate studies, including Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas and Associate Degrees.
“Coursework postgraduate students were already left behind by the mid-year budget review announcements, which resulted in long-awaited support for living expenses being pushed back by several years,” said Ms Hopper.
“It is important that Universities ensure that negotiations result in an increase to postgraduate Commonwealth Supported Places, and that postgraduates do not get left behind again,” Ms Hopper said.
“This funding increase also fails to address the lack of parity in FEE-HELP funding which fails to adequately fund the full fee amount for postgraduate qualifications such as the Juris Doctor,” said Ms Hopper.
“One of the pressing concerns amongst the postgraduate coursework student population is that FEE-HELP does not fully cover the Juris Doctor, resulting in students having to make bulk payments at the conclusion of their studies,” Ms Hopper said.
“This poses very obvious equity concerns around the ability of students from low-SES backgrounds to undertake courses such as the Juris Doctor, something which the extra funding for postgraduate coursework places in the Budget fails to address,” said Ms Hopper.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has welcomed a number of measures in tonight’s Federal Budget that improve funding for the research sector, but has cautioned higher degree by research students not to forget the cuts to research within the recent mid-year budget review.
“Tonight’s Budget has seen a number of positive steps for research funding, including $135 million over five years to extend the Future Fellowships scheme – providing a further 150 fellowships – and $186 million over two years to fund the operation of research infrastructure under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme,” said Ms Hopper.
“However, no Higher Degree by Research student has forgotten the $1 billion that was cut from the sector as part of the mid-year budget review, with the majority of that cut directly impacting Australia’s researchers,” Ms Hopper said.
As Professor Sandra Harding, Chair of Universities Australia, noted in her address to the National Press Club last Wednesday, universities and students lost a further $1bn in funding just over six months ago as part of the mid-year budget review process.
“The cuts to higher education funding as part of the mid-year budget review in December 2012 included $500 million from programs supporting research excellence, as well as the end of funding for large, nationally significant research projects and programs,” said Meghan Hopper, President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.
“CAPA welcomes the announcement in tonight’s budget that the Government will contribute further funding to key research schemes, but they do not add up to the amount lost in the mid-year budget review,” said Ms Hopper.