Media Release: Postgraduates to join protests against the budget

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) will be joining the National Union of Students in non-violent protests against the 2017/18 budget occurring around the country this week.

A $3.8 billion cut to university funding will do more than just lower the quality of a university education. Cuts to funding will result in a decrease in teaching positions for postgraduate students, decreased available funding that subsidizes research training, and damage universities’ ability to innovate.

Postgraduates will also be protesting the retrospective changes to the HECS/HELP system. The decrease in the income repayment threshold will slug both graduates and postgraduates with a change in their loans that goes against basic principles of fairness.

“The entire sector is disappointed in a Federal Government that used the terms innovation and research as if they actually meant to invest in universities,” said CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire.

“Instead the Federal Government has chosen to divest from the higher education sector to the tune of $3.8 billion, a sector that provides an 8.5% boost to the nations GDP,” said Mr Derbyshire.

CAPA is encouraging all postgraduate students to attend a national day of action rally nearest them. When money is taken out of universities, no matter what programs are hit, there will always be a flow on effect. Students, staff, and universities have to stand together to protect universities.

Rally sites 17th May:
MELBOURNE: 2PM State Library (
SYDNEY: USYD: 12PM Fisher Library (
UNSW: 2PM Library Lawns (
CANBERRA: 12:30PM ANU Union Court (
BRISBANE: 1PM King Georges Square (
ADELAIDE: 3PM South Australian Parliament (
PERTH: 2PM Murray St Mall (

For Comment: Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M:0435 047 817

The Federal Government has wasted no time with the carving knives as it sets to work sticking the blades into higher education. Less than 48hrs after the budget legislation aimed at slashing $3.8 billion has already been introduced into the lower house. This move has been condemned uniformly by the entire sector in a show of unity greater than even the fee deregulation threat achieved.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations condemns not only these cuts but the Federal Governments clear refusal to adhere to the principles of evidence based policy. It is a false assumption that Commonwealth Support Place funding is used purely for teaching. The argument for the cuts also rely on a report which explains that there are issues with comparing the cost of teaching over the past 5 years.

“Taking the carving knives to Australia’s 3rd largest export, an export that provides a boost of 8.5% to the GDP, is just lunacy,” says CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire

As for student fees, research from the Australian Institute already shows that Australian students are paying some of the highest fees in the world while at the same time government investment level in universities are at a lower rate than even the US.

“Increased student fees are not even paying for a better quality education, they are going to cover a $50 billion tax break for big business”, Mr Derbyshire

The decreased HECS/HELP repayment threshold is also ready to go. A move that, although legal, is entirely against basic principles of fairness. There are far better options to ensure relief to speed up HECS/HELP repayments but apparently taxing low-income graduates for up to 50+ years is the so called “right-choice”.

“The Minister’s favourite line at the moment is that no student will pay a cent upfront for their degree. What is not told to students is that, on a whim, your student loan can be changed even after you graduate,” said Mr Derbyshire. “It is entirely possible that lowering this threshold is an admission that the Federal Government cannot ensure that its budget can ensure high paying graduate jobs in Australia.”

For comment: 
Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M: 0435 047 817


With the release of the 2017/18 budget, news came that the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program would be put into legislation. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) and the higher education sector breathed a sigh of relief at this news. However, Monday’s pre-budget announcements failed to mention that a further $7 million would be cut from the already heavily reduced program.

CAPA is dismayed that this was omitted during the announcement and just adds insult to the already injured higher education sector. Presenting the decimation of HEPPP as a restructure further obscures the impact this cut will have on low-SES individuals.

It is disappointed that the 2017/2018 Federal Budget benefits those at the top by raiding the pockets of students. It is particularly pernicious that funding has been ripped out from a program which gives a helping hand to disadvantaged students.

The future of Australia requires a robust and stable university system, with equitable access for less privileged groups, is essential to the health of the nation and its economy. Unfortunately, the Federal Government has indicated the opposite through their budget which implements austerity to those who can afford it the least.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says, “Students are already expected to bear the burden of some of the highest fees for degrees in the world. Now, the nation’s most disadvantaged students are not even given token support in pursuing an education.”

“Finally putting HEPPP into legislation is the right move but it would have been nice if it was done before it became a shadow of its former self,” he says.

For comment:
Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M: 0435 047 817


After the release of the 2017/2018 Federal Budget, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) questions the conspicuous lack of university research funding. CAPA had, perhaps foolishly, hoped there would be some level of investment in university research funding given the rhetoric we have endured over the past 12 months.

Even the well-received National Infrastructure Roadmap does not have a clearly defined funding source, with the announcement that, at best, the Federal Government will develop a plan to follow the plan.

Universities are still the best place to ensure long-term research goals can be met, yet they are struggling under a government that is only interested in quick wins, not long term investment.

At what point will the Federal Government get serious about research and innovation? While the Federal Budget does have a number of initiatives funding short-term individual projects, there is no real commitment to long-term research funding- the kind of research funding that changes a country’s economy from resource-based to research-based.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says, “How the Federal Government expects Australia to become a world leader in science, innovation and research with no secure long-term funding is beyond me.”

“Research requires evidence to be acceptable, just like research funding requires long-term investment to be acceptable.”

“It seems that the Government is fine with trashing the highly successful Education Investment Fund without even having the decency to commit funding to the National Infrastructure Roadmap,” says Mr Derbyshire.

CAPA urges the Federal Government to look to fund research in the long-term through investing in our universities, our research training programs, and our students.


For comment: Peter Derbyshire, National President, CAPA: 0435 047 817 /

Today the Federal Government will release their budget containing $2.8billion in cuts to universities, increased fees for students, and an unfair retrospective changing of the Higher Education LOAN Program. This is a reform package that is not only condemned by the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) but by every higher education peak body, including, but not limited to, the NTEU, NUS, and countless Universities.

This package takes a swipe at the 3rd largest export sector in the country, a sector that boosts the Australian Gross Domestic Product by 8.5% all in the name of budget repair as if higher education is an example of “bad debt”. CAPA believes with an increase of the GDP of 8.5% and the overall export value of higher education to the economy is the very definition of “good” debt. Furthermore after universities and students already having provided $4billion to budget repair the sector has done its fair share of lifting according to Universities Australia.

The biggest insult to injury is the retrospective changes the to the Higher Education LOAN Program. A decision that had no consultation with the sector itself and a decision that CAPA would expect Professor Bruce Chapman himself to consider unfair. This move is nothing more than a sneaky back door to introducing an extra tax to people earning less than $42,000 which is far below the average university graduate median earning.

Mark Leibler AC, a leading tax lawyer, expressed as much during an episode of Q & A on the 8th of May. Mr Leibler expressed that burdening students would damage the Australian economy and that it was wrong to saddle bother students and graduates in this way. Like retrospective changes to superannuation law that negatively effects the individual it would be equally unfair to retrospectively change someone’s loan repayments in the way the HELP scheme is being changed.

“In every budget the Government has to make decisions but this time it seems that the decision was to consider education and fairness as nothing more than rhetoric,” says CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire.

“No bank would be allowed to change your loan repayment schedule on a whim and there would be an uproar if banks did it to everyone just to cover their own financial mismanagement, how is this any different?” says Mr Derbyshire.
CAPA is calling on the Federal Government to cancel the cuts, unburden the students and show fairness in handling its loans.

For comment:
Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M: 0435 047 817

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) condemns the increasing prevalence of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitic posters that are appearing on campuses nationwide. It is inconceivable that Antisemitism still exists especially at institutions of higher learning.

For CAPA, this is a matter of hate speech which has no place in educational institutions that should hold diversity and inclusivity. All students, and in-fact all people have a fundamental right to feel safe and should not have to worry that the atrocities of the past will be revisited in this manner.

This appears to be a nationwide effort and CAPA encourages student groups and universities to take a stand against anti-Semitism and hate speech.

We are encouraging students on all campuses to undertake the following actions on campus

  • Reporting these posters and flyers to university security noting the time and place
  • Removing posters when they are found
  • Keeping aware of physical surroundings and people postering or flyering

CAPA also recommends that universities make every effort to identify the students undertaking this deplorable behaviour and require that they attend education workshops on this matter as well as overall equity and diversity training.

It is imperative that campus safety is ensured for all students and staff and it is essential that universities and student organisations stand together to stem the tide of this behaviour.



For comment: Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M: 0435 047 817



The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA) condemns the Government’s proposed changes to university Enabling Courses.

From 1 January 2018, under the Government’s Higher Education Reform Package, students will go from a commonwealth support place to full fee paying. This is a 100% increase of fees to $3271 or the full enabling loading fee.

Enabling Courses fund student commonwealth supported places under programs like the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP). This change will affect all students enrolled in programs that are funded under HEPPP and will cause a ripple on effect towards a decline in Indigenous student enrolments.

“Enabling programs, like those under HEPPP, are vital to rising numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students”. Says NATSIPA President Sadie Heckenberg. “This fee change is turning enabling programs into an unaffordable educational option.”

NATSIPA is worried this will deter Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from attempting university, which will lead to a smaller cohort of Postgraduate students, lower numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics and researchers. With less overall enrolments Australia will see fewer Indigenous doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses and scientists graduating.

“The government is turning a hope for higher education into an alienating expensive process” Says the NATSIPA President. “More troubling is this is not the end of the reforms! From 2019, universities will need to compete for limited enabling places, which will further disadvantage Low-ESE, Rural, and Remote students. This competitive process has the potential to further disadvantage an already highly disadvantage sector of the population.”

These changes to Enabling Course have all the markings of a revenue raising venture with no regard for the education of the populous, or its already severely disadvantaged groups. NATSIPA Condemns these changes that widen the already large gap Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face towards higher education and urge the Government to rethink this process.

Media Contact:
Sadie Heckenberg
2017 President
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Assoc.
Mobile: 0422945837

Today the Australian reported that graduate job quality is on the slide. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is not surprised by these findings from the National Institute for Labour Studies, and are continuing to call for more funding and support for postgraduate students.

Given the increasing need for postgraduate study, how will the university sector be funded to meet the demand? The new government policy to change the way that postgraduate coursework students are funded is a step in the right direction, but the program needs to be expanded.

With more and more professions requiring a Masters level qualification, postgraduate Commonwealth Supported Places will not just have to be linked to students and where they want to study, but also expanded to take this shift into account. The level of support must also increase for these students, many of whom cannot access income support like undergraduate students.

“In order for students to be employable they will increasingly need postgraduate study and the experience these courses provide. CAPA has argued that income support and Commonwealth Supported Places should be expanded to all coursework Masters for a number of years now,” says CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire. “We see the change in how the funding is allocated as a good first step but a lot of work needs to be put into expanding this program for the future.”


For comment: Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M: 0435 047 817

Imagine, for a moment, that you have bought a house (most students don’t even dare imagine such a thing anymore). Naturally you have taken out a loan in order to afford this, but you and your mortgage broker have put together a plan and repayment rate. You are happy in your new home.

Then, as time goes by it becomes harder to get a job, wages don’t increase, and the cost of living goes up. Things are getting hard but you are confident in your mortgage repayments because your lender has promised you these repayment rates that you can manage.

Next minute your lender decides to change the rules of the game. No loan scheme you have ever heard of is able to change the rules of a loan like that but here it is.

The proposed changes to the HECS/HELP is exactly this scenario with the circumstances of loan repayments changed for students both  current and past. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) condemns these changes especially their relation to past and current students.

“This move is particularly unjust and it should not matter who the loan is with retrospectively changing a loan is plain wrong,” says CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire.

“If we can retrospectively change the HECS/HELP scheme why not just retrospectively charge former students of the free education era in the name of budget repair?” Asks Mr Derbyshire.

CAPA is asking all Ministers and Senators to reject this underhanded move as well as many if the unjust aspects of this higher educatikn reform package.

For comment please contact 
Mr Peter Derbyshire
2017 National President
Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations
m: 0435 047 817

Perhaps it is time for the Liberal Government to take part in some higher education themselves at least until they learn how to read full research reports. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is stunned that the Federal Government would use a report that specifically states “These figures cannot be compared as direct growth or decline in costs relative to funding over the five years to 2015, given the differences in the sample, and differences in cost collection approaches.” to try and cut university funding again!

The report may have discussed little change to the cost of teaching but did not include the costs to universities in regards to research, community outreach or infrastructure research. Through consecutive years the Federal Government has hacked away at one program or another then cannot understand why teaching money is used to subsidise these programs.

CAPA had hoped that the Federal Government had finally realised the importance of education and research investment with the decision to define “good” and “bad” debt. Clearly we expected too much of them but thankfully we have a world class education system that will happily teach them these principles. They may even like to pay for the education this time.

Every university is facing job cuts, scholarship cuts and looking for ways to cut the cost of teaching in order to stay afloat and it astounds CAPA that, when universities are shedding staff, that the government cannot see for themselves the dire straits that we are in.

“All the Federal Government has to do is go to a university and let the students show them teaching facilities that have not been upgraded in decades for him to realize that universities do not have the free cash to invest like it needs to,” Said CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire, “Thankfully these cuts will galvanise the higher education above that of even fee deregulation”.

“In fact when I visit universities I would be more than happy to take the Federal Government to class where they can see what is happening on the ground.” Says Mr Derbyshire.

Clearly what was meant by talks about “research and innovation” was really “cuts and university degradation”

For comment: Peter Derbyshire CAPA National President M: 0435 047 817