CAPA/NUS research: The problem with capping HELP loans

Download: Research summary – Capping HELP, What’s the problem?

Watch: Explanatory video

The Government has not given up on their proposed changes to student loans, which are now expected to be voted on in the Senate in late June. This year, CAPA has worked collaboratively with our undergraduate counterparts, the National Union of Students (NUS), in order to push back against the damaging changes to student loans which include a lowered repayment threshold and a borrowing cap.

Together with the NUS, we recently commissioned research on the impact of the borrowing cap. We found that the cap will have an impact on a large number of students who want to pursue many professional or technical careers. With 70% of domestic postgraduate students paying full fees, it is imperative to consider the impact of the proposed cap on full-fee paying students; whereas the Government’s statements have focused on the impact on the minority of students accessing subsidised degrees. We found that for six of the most popular postgraduate study pathways, that combined make up 37% of domestic postgraduate coursework enrolments, the government’s planned cap would take them close to or over the cap for three (Accounting and Banking, Law, Business Management). There are currently almost 40,000 students undertaking these study pathways, indicating that around this number of students will be impacted by the legislation in the next few years. Domestic students will not be able to choose these study pathways and careers in future unless they can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars for tuition fees upfront.

This research was funded by the Graduate Student Association at the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia Student Guild, and the University of Melbourne Student Association. A summary of the research findings can be downloaded here, and the full paper is currently under review for publication.

A story on the research was published in the Sydney Morning Herald online, raising the profile of this important issue.

CAPA and the NUS will continue lobbying to prevent the passage of this legislation.

Lifetime cap on student loans would hit up to 30,000 postgraduates: analysis

Michael Koziol, The Sydney Morning Herald’

The Turnbull government’s proposed lifetime cap on student debt would hit up to 30,000 current postgraduate students who will need to pay upfront or look for work rather than finish studying, according to new analysis.
A report commissioned by the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations argues a growing number of students will come into conflict with a new $100,000 lifetime loan limit to be imposed from next year.

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Student researchers demand payment for work

Loren Smith, Campus Review

New statistics show the most research-intensive group is postgraduate research students. So, they want to be paid for it. According to ABS figures released last week, 57 per cent of postgrads are devoted to research. By contrast, just 30.5 per cent of academic staff spend time on this task, and other staff, 12.3 per cent.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), in calling for funds from the government, advised that postgrads are denied study-related social welfare assistance.

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Call for postgraduate research students to be paid

University World News

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has renewed its call for research students to be paid for their work, as the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures confirm that postgraduate students comprise the majority of human resources dedicated to research.

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The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) renews their call for research students to be paid for their work, as latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures confirm that postgraduate students comprise the majority of human resources dedicated to research.

According to yesterday’s ABS release on resources devoted to research and development, the contribution of postgraduate students remains steady at 57% of total time spent on research.

Despite postgraduate students putting in the majority of research-hours, in many cases, they are not paid for their work. Domestic research students are not entitled to any Centrelink study payments regardless of level of poverty, and can only obtain income support through securing a competitive scholarship.

CAPA once again calls on the Government to begin to address this situation by committing to income support payments for all domestic postgraduate students.

“Postgraduate students are integral to Australia’s research output. It is unacceptable that research and development relies so heavily on exploiting students through unpaid labour,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.

CAPA furthermore notes that international research students are working under even more difficult circumstances. Those who do not have a scholarship are not only contributing to the national research output without pay, they are also forking out for extortionate course fees. A longer-term solution would involve all doctoral students receiving living allowance stipends to support their research activities.

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

Postgraduate students out of the budget… again

Eduardo Jordan (presenter), The Wire

Listen to the interview at:

Download: What does the 2018/19 Federal Budget mean for students? – Briefing paper

The Federal Budget for 2018/19 was released on the 8th of May 2018.

CAPA has prepared a briefing paper to detail budget announcements which are of concern to students, and postgraduate students in particular.

Budget 2018: Win for universities, loss for students

Loren Smith, Campus Review

While metropolitan and rural universities alike are, for once, mostly pleased with the Budget, students feel neglected.

Tertiary institutions praised, among other measures, the boost in research funding. At the same time, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) lamented the Budget’s lack of income support for domestic research and postgraduate coursework students.

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In this pre-election 2018/19 Federal Budget, the best students can hope for is to be forgotten.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is disappointed but not surprised that the Government continues to prioritise everything except students.

There are over 400,000 forgotten postgraduate students in Australia, including over 240,000 domestic postgraduate students who are voters. There continues to be no commitment to income support for domestic research students or postgraduate coursework students. We know that the lack of income support is an urgent problem for postgraduate students, yet the Government has completely ignored this issue.

As far as postgraduate students are concerned, the only value in this budget is that the Government has finally committed to funding the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap. We await details on how this will operate.

In a further example of postgraduate students being totally ignored, the Government’s deals to provide Commonwealth Supported Places to three marginal-seat universities have nothing for future postgraduate students, with all places allocated to study at a Bachelor level or below. These sweetheart deals do little to reverse the damage wreaked by the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) cuts to higher education announced just before Christmas last year.

In this budget – the last before a Federal election – the good news is that the latest blows to the higher education sector are not as devastating as they could have been. If these damages are legislated, universities will have to stump up fees if they wish for their students to access loans, as well as shouldering the cost of regulatory body TEQSA within three years.

“Postgraduate students are important contributors to our nation’s research output and will become even more important in the future as we require a highly skilled workforce,” said CAPA national president, Natasha Abrahams. “It is disheartening that postgraduate students have once again been left out of the national agenda.”


For further comment:

CAPA National President

Natasha Abrahams


P: 0430 076 993

Mortgage-scale student debt on the rise in Australia

John Ross, Times Higher Education

The number of Australians with enormous student debts has increased by almost 30 per cent in a year, adding impetus to the government’s drive to rein in lending.


The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations said that “penalising students for the cost of their education” was a short-sighted response to the problem. “Imposing a loan balance cap does not address the real problems of ballooning tuition fees and graduates’ difficulties finding stable, fairly paid employment,” said national president Natasha Abrahams.

“If the minister is genuinely concerned that some students are unable to pay back their loans, it would be prudent to examine and address the reasons for this rather than devastate opportunity for future students and rip money from lower-earning graduates.”

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