Media Release: Funding boost a good start to the Australian ideas revolution

Media Release: Funding boost a good start to the Australian ideas revolution. For Immediate Release

21 December 2016 – The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations welcomes the $76 million in increased funding to research training at Australian universities as a good first step to truly sparking the ideas revolution in Australia.

A $50 million boost to encourage industry engagement in research training will ensure better funded research projects which, at the moment, is sorely needed in Australian Universities.

While the boost in funding for applied research is welcome the funding tap for blue sky research needs to be turned on. Without blue sky research the smart ideas that will fuel the innovation agenda will be short lived.

“Blue sky research is the basis of which all applied research grows.” Said 2017 CAPA President, Mr Peter Derbyshire. “Research Training is the best opportunity for blue sky research to occur. When a HDR student undertakes blue sky research as part of their training they go out into the innovation sector full of new ideas ready to apply.”

CAPA recognizes the need for research training students to be given the opportunity to better engage with industry and be prepared for the workforce outside of academia. The expansion of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute internship program to 1,400 placements provides students with an excellent opportunity to develop the skills needed in the changing PhD.

“We welcome this increase in funding but also urge the Federal Government to not stop there” said Mr Derbyshire. “Increasing funding for industry based research training is essential but we need to ensure that these opportunities extend to all research training disciplines.”

The changes to Research Training funding, expected implementation of the ACOLA recommendations, and now an increase in funding for industry engagement is a great start but we can’t forget the blue sky research that spawns the ideas and the need for industry engagement across all research disciplines.


For comment: Peter Derbyshire, current Western Branch President and incoming National President, CAPA,

Media Release: Students on University Councils under threat: Academic Freedom comes at a price for the University of Adelaide

Democratic governance at South Australian universities is threatened by proposed changes that will directly decrease the number of elected staff and student members on University Council, the highest governing body. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) stands united with the affected South Australian Universities including its affiliate the Student Representative Council (Adelaide) Inc and condemns any attempt to decrease the number of elected members on university governing bodies.
Proposed changes to the University of Adelaide Act are currently being considered by the South Australian government to trim the number of elected representatives by five while the number of appointed members of University Council remain untouched. Analogous legislation is also up for discussion that would see similar changes at Flinders University.
“It is by no coincidence that the number of appointed members is unchanged. These proposed changes reflect nationwide campaigns to radically decrease or even eliminate the number of elected members of these councils in their pursuit of corporatisation,” said Student Representative Council President Mark Pace.
University Councils or Senates traditionally represent a cross-section of the university community. Elected academic and professional staff and student representatives should make up significant proportions of the membership of these bodies, allowing all members of the community to contribute to the strategic direction of the University. In Victoria similar legislation from 2012 was recently overturned after finding it decreased student and staff focused decision making.
Incoming CAPA Central Region President, Richard Matthews says the changes are not just undemocratic but are an attack on Academic Freedom. “There is a nationwide program of erosion aimed at centralising all functions of university councils and senates in the Vice Chancellor of these institutions. We know that universities are not businesses and the input from academics and students is required to ensure the direction of the academy meets the needs of society as a whole. This is what Academic Freedom is all about. These changes erode that freedom.” he said.
“CAPA will always stand by its affiliates and the importance of student involvement at all levels of university decision making. The Adelaide University Student Representative Council condemns any attempt to reduce the number of professional or academic staff, union officials, or students on University Council and believes that Adelaide University’s highest governing body must be transparent to keep the university community aware and involved in its decisions,” Mr Matthews said.
“CAPA Central Region will work to ensure representation on university governing bodies remains equal with students and staff having equal weight to those appointed by business types.”
For comment contact incoming CAPA Central Region Branch President:
Mr Richard Matthews
0414 275 570

Media release: Taxing university student loans is not the answer

5 December 2016 – The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) condemns the idea of a loan fee proposed by the Grattan Institute [1] to make money from Australia’s university students.
Justification for a loan fee relies on the myth that the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) is unsustainable. However, given the recent data from the ABS on Higher Education enrolments [2], it is clear the student numbers are steadying after the introduction of the demand driven system.
The idea of a loan fee suggests that students do not already wish to avoid crippling debt where possible. Subsidising upfront or early repayment of HELP debt is a much better way to encourage payment from those students who have the means to pay early.
Attaching a 15% administration tax on HELP loans will only provide theoretical savings. In reality it will balloon out the national HELP scheme by $700 million and continue to hide the true cost of higher education.
“If the concern is about managing the national HELP debt then policy should focus on encouraging investment in universities to create the innovative jobs of the future and improving employment outcomes,” says Peter Derbyshire, the incoming CAPA National President.
So called ‘bad debt’ has been an ongoing concern of the HELP loan scheme but adding a $700 million administration tax is counterintuitive if the Federal Government really wants these loans repaid.
Furthermore, an administration tax, which does not add any value to higher education, will discourage higher education participation for students from low socio-economic backgrounds.
“Slugging students a fee for using HELP loans would be like slugging patients with a GP-fee increase without the money going back into healthcare. It is time for innovative thinking when it comes to higher education funding policy, not more fee rhetoric,” Mr Derbyshire says.
For comment: Peter Derbyshire, current Western Branch President and incoming National President, CAPA,

[1] Grattan Institute 2016, ‘Shared interest: A universal loan fee for HELP’, <>

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, ‘Education and Work, Australia, May 2016’, <>