MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA calls for student concession fares in Victorian pre-budget submission

CAPA calls for student concession fares in Victorian pre-budget submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is calling for concession public transport fares to be extended to full-time postgraduate students, in a pre-budget submission to the Victorian Government.

Unlike undergraduate students, full-time postgraduate students are unable to access public transport student concession rates. Victoria is the only state which excludes domestic postgraduate students from the student concession scheme.

Full-time postgraduate enrolments in Victoria have more than doubled in the past decade.  These students are less able to engage in paid work than their part-time counterparts, and frequently live in poverty. The cost of paying full fares on public transport is an extra strain on postgraduate students’ finances. A typical 20 – 24 year old domestic postgraduate student, if using public transport five days a week, would spend approximately one tenth of their income on transport fares.

We have previously projected that it would cost the Victorian Government approximately $6 million to extend concession fares to full-time domestic and international postgraduate students. This pales in comparison to the $9.1 billion per year generated by international education in the state of Victoria.

“We applaud the Andrews Government for important changes made to public transport infrastructure in Victoria. We believe it is time to make public transport more affordable for our student population,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.

“There is no good reason not to consider full-time postgraduate students as being students for the purposes of the transport concession scheme.”

The full submission can be viewed here.

More information about the Fares Fair PTV campaign can be viewed here.

END
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

Download: CAPA-Victorian-pre-budget-submission.docx

In this submission, we discuss the growing size and significance of the postgraduate cohort in Victoria, and the financial challenges faced by postgraduate students. On this basis, we recommend that the Victorian Government extend public transport concession fares to all full-time postgraduate students.

CAPA calls for student consultation in tackling contract cheating

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is calling for student associations and student advocacy services to be consulted in Government efforts to reduce contract cheating in universities.

In our submission to the “Tackling contract cheating” inquiry, we support the notion of legislation criminalising the sale of contract cheating services, and argue that this should be one of many initiatives to address university cheating.

Student advocacy services work on the front-line of handling academic misconduct cases and therefore can provide insights into how to effectively address the causes of cheating. It is vital that student associations and their advocacy services are consulted during this process.

We furthermore call for secure funding for advocacy services run by student associations, which are often not sufficiently funded to meet demand. There is an anticipated increase in demand for student advocacy services, as scrutiny on academic misconduct intensifies with the proposed legislative changes. Student advocacy services are essential to ensure that those accused of academic misconduct are treated fairly and are able to access support services. Secure and sufficient funding will also enable student advocacy services to provide additional programs to prevent academic misconduct before it occurs.

“Criminalising the sale of contract cheating is a step in the right direction to promote academic integrity,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.

“However, this must be part of a multi-pronged approach, including full funding for independent student advocacy and support services.”

END
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

Download – CAPA submission to AQF review

CAPA supports the notion of the AQF as one of several instruments to set minimum standards for the content and nature of qualifications. Defining qualification levels also allows students, graduates, and employers to identify the demands and outcomes of the type of course one has or is undertaking. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to the current review. We also participated in a consultation interview for last year’s preliminary review of credit pathways policy and practice within the AQF, as well as attending the consultation workshop for the current review.

We are concerned that there is heightened pressure to reduce the duration, and therefore the breadth of content, in tertiary courses. This is due to ongoing cuts to higher education, as well as the change towards a mass-access tertiary system. We believe that the AQF has an important role to play in ensuring minimum durations and outcomes of tertiary courses, therefore upholding quality and value of these qualifications.

We recommend that:
1. The AQF Review Panel amends the definition of one year of doctoral study to equate to 30 hours per week over 48 weeks in a year, thus bringing “AQF-years” in line with the minimum expectations of doctoral students.
2. The volume of learning for the PhD be amended to “four to five years”.
3. The volume of learning for the research masters also be amended in line with average completion times.

CAPA calls for PhD duration to match actual minimum completion times

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has called for the duration of PhD enrolments be extended in line with minimum reasonable completion times. This is a key recommendation of our submission to the review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

The AQF currently states that a full-time study load is 1,200 hours a year, equating to 23 hours per week; over three to four years for a PhD. However, this is much less than the minimum 30 hours per week which universities require for PhD students, and far below actual hours worked, with most PhD students working on their research for at least 40 hours per week.

The excessive work hours of PhD students are in part due to most universities funding only the minimum three years to complete the doctorate from start to finish, despite median completion time being over four years.

The AQF is one of several instruments to set minimum standards for the content and nature of qualifications. However, currently the guidelines in the AQF do not match the reality of doctoral study, with the hours per week and duration of the qualification being too short. We have recommended that the AQF duration of study for research degrees be amended to reflect expectations of minimum working hours and completion times.

A change to the AQF is an opportunity to shape university policy around candidature and scholarship duration, which for most students are completely inadequate to see them through to completion.

END
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

Hello, my name is Romana-Rea, I am the Women’s Officer for CAPA and I’d like to wish all the women from around the world a happy International Women’s Day!

This is an important time of the year to acknowledge university women and recognise their contributions while also recognising that change is needed. My project as CAPA’s Women’s Officer will focus on the safety and success of women in academia because the two are inherently linked. I’m a firm believer that when women are given a safe environment to work in, they will thrive and have a better chance at success.

That is why we find it concerning that individuals feel more comfortable reporting incidents of on-campus gendered violence to their unions, student representatives, and End Rape on Campus than their universities. We believe that reporting incidents should not be a career threatening move. We recently made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, where we called for improved policies and support for research students experiencing harassment at their university.

Research students who face workplace harassment primarily through their role as casual staff as well as in rare but detrimental cases of inappropriate behaviour from their research supervisors must be protected. In our submission we recommend that all Australian universities and research institutes formally adopt the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships, which we jointly co-created with Universities Australia, the National Tertiary Education Union, and the Australian Council of Graduate Research in 2017. To date the endorsement of these principles by universities has been disappointing.

We hope that the Coalition Government will give consideration to re-establishing the taskforce against sexual assault and harassment in universities, as has already been committed to by the Labor Party should they form government at the next federal election. We furthermore believe that postgraduate students have unique needs that must be given a voice through representation on the proposed taskforce.

Initiatives for equality and career success for women must be continued through existing programs such as Athena Swan. However, we believe there are many improvements that can be made for women in research, as outlined in our 2018 submission to the Women in STEM Decadal Plan.

Here at CAPA we are incredibly proud of all the achievements of postgraduate women and are pleased that we have a strong female presence on our Executive Committee. We will continue the good work initiated by our predecessors and we will continue to fight until women are afforded the respect, opportunity and safety we deserve.

If you have any questions please contact me at women@capa.edu.au

Low reporting rates of harassment must be addressed, says CAPA

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has called for improved policies and support for research students experiencing harassment at their university, in a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.

Low reporting rates of harassment incidents in universities reflect a lack of trust in reporting processes and outcomes. For research students and casually employed staff, reporting inappropriate behaviour can be a career-threatening move.

Research students face workplace harassment primarily through their role as casual staff as well as in rare but detrimental cases of inappropriate behaviour from their research supervisors.

We reiterate our call for universities to formally adopt the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships, which state that intimate relationships between supervisors and their students are never appropriate due to the inherent power imbalance in this relationship, and that university policies must contain protections for students who report. We furthermore assert that universities must improve their training for staff and students on appropriate supervision behaviour.

Research students working as teaching or research staff at universities are almost always employed on a casual basis. Universities must end their insecure employment practices so that staff feel empowered to report workplace harassment.

Experiencing supervisor or workplace harassment should not be a career-ender.

“When women are given a safe environment to work in they will thrive and have a better chance at success. The current reporting procedures are falling short on expectations. Universities must have clearer and improved reporting guidelines for incidents that occur on and off campus and empower their staff and students to come forward when incidents occur,” says CAPA Women’s Officer, Romana-Rea Begicevic.

CAPA’s full submission can be downloaded here.

END
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

Download – Submission to AHRC National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

In this submission, we focus on harassment experienced by postgraduate research students in the course of their studies and employment at education providers. Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students occupy a hybrid space in which they are considered students, but in many cases face expectations and working conditions in line with those of staff. Research students and paid research staff may be working alongside one another on the same project and with similar hours and expectations of work output. Unfortunately, some HDR students face harassment and other inappropriate behaviour from their research supervisors and/or colleagues. Students in these situations fear the consequences for their research and career if they report. Many HDR students are also employed at their university as teaching or research staff, almost always in precarious employment conditions which cause them to be reluctant to report experiences of workplace harassment. We make the following recommendations to improve uptake of reporting channels:

Recommendation one: That all Australian universities and research institutes formally adopt the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships.

Recommendation two: That all Australian universities use the ACGR Respectful Research Training package for educating doctoral students and supervisors on appropriate supervision relationships.

Recommendation three: That clear reporting processes on off-site harassment incidents be established for university students and staff.

Recommendation four: That universities must drastically reduce the use of casual and short-term staff in teaching and research positions, so that staff feel less fearful of reporting workplace harassment.

These recommendations will go some way to address current issues of low reporting rates, however, more action is needed to create the cultural change necessary to eradicate workplace harassment and its gendered patterns.

Alliance of NSW student associations advocate for concession fares for international students

A group of twelve student organisations, including the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), are working together to advocate for concession public transport fares for international students in New South Wales.

The alliance has written to the Minister for Transport as well as the Shadow Minister for Transport asking if they will commit to creating concession fares for international students.

International education is the largest services export industry in New South Wales, having the largest share of international education of any state. However, the high cost of living – including through transport costs – is damaging the state’s reputation among the international student community and therefore putting this economic contribution at risk.

There are currently 130,000 international students enrolled at universities in New South Wales. Many international students live in poverty, with one in seven regularly skipping meals and other necessities due to their financial situation.

Allowing international students to access the same public transport concessions as all other students will assist with cost of living pressures, and increase this cohort’s satisfaction with their experience of international education in Australia.

“International students contribute substantially to the development and growth of the Australian economy. They should be treated equally when it comes to the cost of public transportation, ” says CAPA International Officer, Devendra Singh.

“With the cost of living in NSW at its peak, international students are questioning how they can afford the basics. Full fares on public transport increases the burden on these students, who act as ambassadors for Australian education around world. To communicate a positive message about Australian education around the world, concession fares must be extended to every student in NSW irrespective of their country of birth or origin.”

The letter was signed by the following organisations:

  • Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations
  • University of Western Sydney Student Representative Council
  • Newcastle University Postgraduate Students Association
  • Newcastle University Students’ Association
  • University of New South Wales Postgraduate Council
  • University of New South Wales Student Representative Council
  • University of Technology Sydney Students Association
  • Southern Cross Postgraduate Association
  • Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association
  • Students’ Representative Council, University of Sydney
  • Wollongong University Postgraduate Association
  • University of Wollongong Undergraduate Students’ Association

END
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

CAPA welcomes scientists’ call to protect research students from supervisor sexual harassment

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes Science Technology Australia’s (STA) recommendation for universities and other STEM organisations to implement protections for research students in cases of sexual harassment from supervisors, including by formally adopting the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships.

The Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships were developed jointly by CAPA, Universities Australia, the Australian Council of Graduate Research, and the National Tertiary Education Union. The Principles state that a sexual or romantic relationship between a supervisor and their research student is never appropriate, due to the supervisor being in a position of power over their student.

The Principles were released in 2018 and represented a unified viewpoint between peak bodies on the important issue of student-supervisor relationships. However, uptake of the Principles by universities has been disappointing.

We welcome the push from scientists for the Principles to be adopted as part of efforts to reduce harassment in scientific workplaces.

“Research students are vulnerable to inappropriate behaviour from their supervisor due to the power differential, as students rely on supervisors for the success of their research and their future career,” says CAPA national president, Natasha Abrahams.

“Universities must work to change the culture which allows inappropriate behaviour to flourish. Formal endorsement of the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships, with the implementation of supporting policies, is an essential first step in fostering respectful supervisor-student relationships.”

STA’s recommendation to adopt the Principles comes as part of their submission to the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. They also included results of their recent survey of scientists, finding that one in two women and one in ten men reported experiencing workplace sexual harassment.

END
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

Download – Feedback on “tackling contract cheating”

We welcome this opportunity to contribute our view on the idea to legislate the provision of contract cheating services for Australian university students. We support the idea of making it an offence to provide or advertise contract cheating services. This is one important way to promote academic integrity and the quality of an Australian university education. In this submission, we discuss the role of student associations and their associated advocacy services; we suggest that these bodies are consulted in efforts to reduce instances of contract cheating. We make the following recommendations:

Recommendation one: That legislation be implemented which makes the sale or advertisement of commercial cheating services an offence.

Recommendation two: That the HESP, universities, and other decision-making bodies engage with student organisations to implement interventions addressing causes of contract cheating.

Recommendation three: That decision-makers draw on the expertise of independent advocacy services in efforts to tackle contract cheating.

Recommendation four: That student associations are provided with adequate funding to support and staff an advocacy service, in order to manage and prevent cases of academic misconduct.