Response to the NSW Ombudsman ‘Complaints about the supervision of postgraduate students’ discussion paper

Attachment – CAPA response to NSW Ombudsman paper

Overview –

CAPA commends the NSW Ombudsman for investigating the issue of postgraduate supervision complaints, and, in particular, providing practical suggestions for universities to refine their policies and practices so as to better address conflicts. CAPA strongly agrees with all measures set out by the NSW Ombudsman to avoid and resolve postgraduate–supervisor conflicts. We suggest making several additions to the proposed framework, however. In our response, we make the following recommendations:

Recommendation One: Encourage universities to ensure that student associations are adequately resourced to provide independent and culturally appropriate advocacy services.

Recommendation Two: Direct universities to provide students with information about the advocacy services they can access.

Recommendation Three: Incorporate into the framework a strategy pertaining to sexual harassment and assault in supervision relationships. This strategy should address training for supervisors, provision of relevant information to students, reporting mechanisms, and clear pathways for changing supervisors as needed.

PhD students should exploit their industry links, report urges

Darragh O’Keeffe, The Australian

Universities should examine the barriers preventing more PhD candidates from using their professional experience and contacts in the funding and supervision of their research, according to a major study.

About 80 per cent of the 3700 PhD candidates surveyed by researchers at the LH Martin Institute had prior professional experience, yet engagement with organisations outside their university was found to be a “minority activity”.


Natasha Abrahams, national president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, said PhD candidates were generally interested in engagement opportunities but time and financial constraints limited the extent to which they could seek them out.

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Attachment – CAPA response to Business Council of Australia’s ‘Future-Proof’ Discussion Paper

Overview –

The Federal Government’s investment in tertiary education provides major benefits to Australian businesses. Postgraduate students, engaging in research, coursework, or a combination of both, sit at the forefront of Australia’s innovation economy. Postgraduate degrees, in particular, teach students critical thinking, analysis, communication, and problem solving. It is widely acknowledged that such skills, and the graduates who possess them, will not only be highly desired but necessary at all levels of Australia’s future workforce. It is therefore crucial that such degrees be properly funded and accessible to all.

In our response, we identify some points of agreement with the BCA. However, we find that their proposed model requires further consideration and reworking in three key areas. Failure to reconsider these flaws, and the assumptions underpinning them, will negatively impact Australia’s universities, their current and prospective postgraduates, and, ultimately, the businesses represented by the BCA. We put forward the following three recommendations:


Recommendation 1: Reduce the proposed emphasis on differential funding according to public and private ‘benefit’, and consider the unanticipated effects of such a model.

Recommendation 2: Exclude private providers from eligibility to receive the proposed government subsidies.

Recommendation 3: Scrap the proposed ‘Lifelong Skills Account’ in favour of a model oriented toward improving public VET funding and accessibility, and maintaining public university funding.

Over 40 per cent of grads say they’re wasting skills

Loren Smith, Campus Review

The government’s 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey National Report revealed that between 2008 and 2017,
the proportion of graduates who were reluctantly underemployed increased by 10.8 percentage points to
19.7 per cent, around 10 per cent more than the workforce at large.


In regards to employment and satisfaction those with postgraduate degrees scored higher than
undergraduates. They rated their experiences roughly the same as undergraduates in terms of skill

Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations National President Natasha Abrahams said this indicates
how “incredibly important” postgraduates are to employers, and thereby, the economy. Yet she tempered
her response with a criticism of the level of financial support these students receive. “…The current lack of
consistent income support for Australian postgraduate students makes life harder for this cohort.”

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MEDIA RELEASE: Postgraduates get a raw deal despite top graduate outcomes

12 January 2018 – The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) calls on the Federal Government to recognise the value and employment outcomes of postgraduate qualifications by extending income support to all postgraduate students.

The 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey, released today, demonstrates that recent graduates of postgraduate courses enjoy a boost in employment rates. The high rate of full-time employment of those with postgraduate coursework qualifications (86%) and postgraduate research qualifications (80%) just four months after graduating indicates that employers value the skills and knowledge possessed by those with advanced degrees.

The Graduate Outcomes Survey also established that 21% of those with undergraduate qualifications opted to go on to full-time postgraduate study immediately after graduation. Postgraduate study is becoming ever more crucial to students’ career planning. However, those continuing on to postgraduate study are in for quite a shock, as entitlements for postgraduate students are inconsistent with those afforded to undergraduates.

Domestic students enrolled in some postgraduate courses in study areas with top employment outcomes are not eligible for income support. Eligibility for income support payments, such as Youth Allowance or Austudy, for coursework degrees varies wildly between courses and institutions. For research students, support is obtained through a scholarship or not at all, resulting in approximately half of domestic research students being entirely without income support despite their invaluable contributions to Australia’s research output. CAPA calls on the Federal Government to extend income support eligibility to all postgraduate coursework and research students, which we advocated for in our 2018/19 Pre-Budget Submission.

CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams says:

“Postgraduate qualifications are clearly prized by employers, but the current lack of consistent income support for Australian postgraduate students makes life harder for this cohort.”

“The Education Minister claims to value employment outcomes highly, given his proposal to introduce performance-based funding for universities, but students do not feel valued when undertaking advanced qualifications that are not eligible for Austudy.”


For comment: CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993

University funding to be ‘frozen’ in time by federal cuts

Geoff Maslen, University World News

Planned federal cuts of more than AU$2 billion (US$1.6 billion) would mean university funding was ‘frozen in time’ and would force severe reductions in student numbers, according to Universities Australia.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, or CAPA, said its members were disturbed by the government’s proposal to adopt an “institutional outcomes and industry needs” approach in approving postgraduate numbers.

CAPA President Peter Derbyshire said giving industry too much input into available postgraduate places in different courses was “pernicious” because industry needs and economic circumstances were prone to rapid changes.

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