CAPA condemns vague and unfair higher education cuts

Media release: CAPA condemns vague and unfair higher education cuts

18 December 2017 – The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is concerned about the implications of changes to higher education funding announced in today’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

CAPA is disturbed by the suggestion of a new allocation mechanism which is constrained by what is vaguely referred to as “institutional outcomes and industry needs”. Giving industry too much input into available postgraduate places in different courses is pernicious for two reasons. Firstly, industry needs and economic circumstances are prone to rapid changes. Therefore, any decisions made on the basis of industry demand are at risk of becoming outdated by the time that graduates are produced. Secondly, it demonstrates shortsightedness in regards to the skills and knowledge brought by graduates from fields not traditionally valued by industry. CAPA nervously awaits further detail on this proposal.

CAPA is furthermore saddened that the Federal Government seeks to press on with a lowered repayment threshold for student debt, forcing students to begin repaying their HELP loans upon reaching a yearly income of $45,000 (as opposed to the current threshold of $55,874). This targets some of the most vulnerable university graduates. The money recovered from this proposal will be minimal for the Government, yet makes a large difference to the personal circumstances of low-income graduates. While CAPA has no problem with those in the higher income bracket paying off their HECS sooner at the 10% rate, attacking the lower income earning graduates by lowering the threshold is the wrong move. CAPA has repeatedly condemned the lowered repayment threshold in the past, and hopes that Senators will stand with students to reject this unfair change.

With the freezing of the Commonwealth Support Placements for 2018 and 2019, it is expected that $2.1 billion will be ripped from universities in yet another attempt at toe-cutting. While the cuts are in no way surprising, it is disappointing to see the Federal Government go behind the back of the Senate in this fashion. This freeze also signals the death of the demand-driven system through an administrative decision rather than a discussion about the importance and merits of an educated Australia.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:
“These cuts are cowardly moves by the Minister who, instead of working with the Senate and sector, has gone behind the backs of all those that support higher education.”

“A new, yet undisclosed, allocation method for postgraduate places is yet another random thought bubble without any clarification as to what these methods will mean for the sector or for the students.”

“We maintain that the changing of the terms of a loan retrospectively is fundamentally wrong and unfair for those that already have a HELP debt.”


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

Today the National Union of Students (NUS), the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) and the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA) have joined forces in a move that will irrevocably strengthen the student voice in Australia.

In this historic move, the 4 national student bodies are formally brought together for the first time under an agreement that will heighten student representation and change the way the student voice is heard throughout the higher education sector.

Unique skills and experiences will be brought together from each of the national bodies that will make the student voice in Australia one of the strongest in the world. Now, with the student bodies working in concert on the major issues, the higher education sector will have to face a united front on student issues.

While the Spring Agreement ensures that the student bodies remain independent and able to tackle their own specific work, the agreement provides a strategic avenue for future collaborations that will strengthen student representation nationally.

The timing of this agreement is also significant with more higher education cuts anticipated by the end of the year. The Federal Government will now have to face a united student body if they want to cut equity programs, research or the demand-driven system.

CAPA quote
“For years now there have been cuts to higher education in Australia, well now the student will stand up united for universities and for education in Australia.” Says CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire

NUS quote
“When a government has spent so long attacking its students and young people, it became inevitable for us to join forces and work together to fight for a high quality, accessible and well-funded education system in Australia,” says NUS President, Sophie Johnston

“The sector has tried to create a divide between undergrads and postgrads, international and domestic students, regional and metropolitan students, students from low SES backgrounds and Indigenous students. Today we put a stop to that. All our student cohorts face similar issues and we will fight for them as a united front. This is a win for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ representation and student voices as a whole.” Says NATISPA President Sadie Heckenberg

CISA quote
“The united student voice would be stronger and louder in Australia. CISA is committed to bridging the gap between domestic and international students and this step forward with the other national peak bodies will provide avenues for CISA to raise international student voice louder and clearer with the help of domestic peak bodies and students.” Says CISA President Bijay Sapkota

For further comment;
CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
E: P: 0435 047 817

NUS National President, Sophie Johnston
E: P: 0411 606 808

NATSIPA President, Sadie Heckenberg
E: P: 0422 945 837

CISA President, Bijay Sapkota


View the Spring Agreement here.

Attachment: CAPA 2018-19 Pre-Budget Submission

Over the past 2 years, the Federal Government has repeatedly declared their commitment to innovation. Yet, at present, Australia’s tertiary education system has one of the lowest ratios of public funding to GDP in the OECD.1 Federal Government funding for higher education has declined substantially over the past few years (by $4 billion since 2011). Moreover, previous plans to increase income support for postgraduate students have been shelved, threatening completion rates and limiting postgraduate degree participation. CAPA also remains deeply concerned about the higher education legislation proposed throughout the course of 2017 and the impact such changes would have on postgraduates. This environment of uncertainty and decline has negatively impacted universities’ ability to teach the researchers and innovators of the future. Our universities need improved and stable funding for research, teaching, and infrastructure if they are to be globally competitive: a point reiterated by the government’s own expert reviewers in recent years. 2 3 On this basis, we outline a series of priority areas:

❖ Extending income support for domestic postgraduates

❖ Increasing research training funding

❖ Reducing inequalities

❖ Increasing dedicated funding for early career research

The 2017 Annual Council Meeting has drawn to a close, having facilitated postgraduate representatives from all over Australia to come together, share ideas, make new connections, and set the direction for CAPA in 2018. One of the functions of the ACM is to conduct elections for the following year’s national postgraduate student representatives. We are pleased to announce a strong office bearer team elected for 2018:


Executive Committee:
President: Natasha Abrahams
Vice President (National Operations Committee): Anish Saini
Vice President (Equity): Mick Fox
NATSIPA Liaison Officer (interim, pending NATSIPA elections): Sharlene Leroy-Dyer
General Secretary: Dylan Styles
Policy and Research Advisor: Simon Burnett
Media Officer: Zoë Tulip

Equity officers:
International Officer: Florian Spalthoff
Disabilities Officer: Marguerite Biasatti
Women’s Officer: Vacant
Queer Officer: Vacant

Branch presidents:
Western Branch Presidents: Romana-Rea Begicevic & Peter Watson
South Eastern Branch Presidents: Maaz Sharieff & Ganesh Reddy
Eastern Branch President: Madhur Chhabra
Northern Branch President: Saira Khan
Central Branch President: Vacant

The new office bearers commence their term on the first of January. By-elections will be held to fill the vacant positions of Queer Officer, Women’s Officer, and Central Branch President.