Submission to Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework

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.

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

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.

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.