MEDIA RELEASE: Students welcome contract cheating legislation, but advise law should only target commercial cheating companies

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Students welcome contract cheating legislation, but advise law should only target commercial cheating companies

The Australian Government has proposed legislation to target providers of contract cheating services in a series of amendments to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) Act.

While the legislation is a positive step forward in combating the issue of contract cheating with a particular emphasis on organised commercial providers of contract cheating services, students are wary that the broad scope of the legislation may target individuals who could breach academic integrity by providing assistance to their friends.

The peak student bodies – the National Union of Students (NUS), the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA), and the Union of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students (UATSIS) – call on the government to amend the proposed legislation so that it only targets organised, commercial cheating providers.

“This legislation needs to target contract cheating services specifically and exclusively. Individual students who breach academic integrity should not be liable for a two-year prison sentence, even if that won’t be enforced against them,” said Desiree Cai, NUS National President. “We need a multifaceted approach to tackling contract cheating, and taking on commercial services requires targeted legislation.”

“Cheating that occurs with the assistance of family or friends should continue to be dealt with through university academic misconduct processes, supported by an educative strategy to prevent cheating,” says CAPA President, Natasha Abrahams.

“It is vital to have legislation targeting commercial cheating providers to ensure academic integrity. However, we should be vigilant in guarding against laws that could be unintentionally harshly applied to individuals, particularly Indigenous Student Success Program (‘ISSP’) tutors,” says NATSIPA President, Jahmillah Johnson.

“Laws can have unintended consequences, and in this case, we are concerned about the potential impact the current drafting may have on individuals. The Commonwealth Government should be concerned with the predatory commercial operators in this area, not students,” added UATSIS President, Braedyn Edwards.

NUS, CAPA, NATSIPA and UATSIS have provided feedback to the Department of Education, outlining solutions to these issues in the legislation.

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For further comment:

NUS National President
Desiree Cai
E: president@nus.asn.au
P: 0411 606 808

CAPA National President
Natasha Abrahams
E: president@capa.edu.au
P: 0430 076 993

NATSIPA National President
Jahmillah Johnson
E: president@natsipa.edu.au
M: 0420 361 365

UATSIS National President
Braedyn Edwards
E: president@uatsis.org
P: 0428 238 088

Pain for postgrads in new financial year

From July 1, lower-earning students and graduates will be on the receiving end of a double-assault on their hip pockets. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is deeply concerned about the impact on lower-earners of penalty rate cuts and the lowering of the student loan repayment threshold due to commence in the new financial year.

The lowered repayment threshold will mean that students and graduates will be paying back their student loans when they are earning barely above minimum wage. From July 1, the income repayment threshold will be reduced to $45,881.

This will have dire consequences for those who are working in lower-paid industries or part-time. It disproportionately takes money from women with responsibilities caring for young children or elderly parents.

The changes to student loans were waved through by the Senate last year, on the same day that Universities Australia released damning statistics in their Student Finances Survey showing the level of student poverty.

Many students work in hospitality, fast food and retail in order to cover their living expenses while studying. The cut to penalty rates – for the second year in a row – will have a life-altering impact for students who are already struggling to pay for rent, food, bills, transport, and textbooks.

To make matters worse, those struggling will see their take-home pay slashed by up to 15% as new cuts to penalty rates are implemented. This will snatch food off the table for those who are struggling. Students who attend university during the week and work on weekends are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of penalty rate cuts.

We are concerned that these attacks on lower income-earning Australians will result in more people living in extreme poverty, and lead to an increase in the number of students and graduates accessing support from already overstretched charities.

“At the same time as lower-income earners are victimised, those earning higher incomes will be receiving substantial tax cuts,” says CAPA President, Natasha Abrahams.

“The Government is committed to the myth of trickle-down economics, but historically the impact has been to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.”
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For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

Download  – Submission to Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019

We welcome this opportunity to provide our comments on the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019. We previously provided our view on the idea of contract cheating legislation in a submission earlier this year (CAPA 2019).
We commend efforts by the Department of Education, Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP), and Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to promote a culture of academic integrity. In this submission, we communicate partial support for the proposed amendment to the TEQSA Act. We agree that it would be beneficial to have legislation targeting commercial cheating providers. Crucially, we argue that the scope of the draft legislation should be narrowed, such that it is not an offence for an individual to assist a student to cheat.

CAPA concerned about Australian universities’ staff-to-student ratios decline in global rankings

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is concerned about a decline in staff-to-student ratios in almost all Australian universities, as revealed by the latest QS World University Rankings.

The QS World University Rankings note in their methodology that the staff-to-student ratio is an effective proxy measure of teaching quality. They explain that a larger number of students per teacher results in students having less access to lecturers and tutors, and a higher teaching burden on each academic.

This aligns with the experience of students nation-wide. Many student leaders report that their universities experience problems with under-resourcing as enrolments skyrocket and federal funding declines. Universities must ensure that they have the capacity to deliver a quality education as they welcome increasing numbers of students, both domestic and international.

CAPA calls on universities to reinvest some of their profits from international students and domestic postgraduate coursework students back into providing a high-quality education. Further, CAPA calls on the Federal Government to reinvest additional resources into the higher education sector to ensure our universities can be world-class by all measures.

This includes improving staff-to-student ratios, and ending notoriously insecure employment conditions faced by the majority of teaching staff.

“Access to teaching staff is a basic requirement of a university education,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.

“The decline in staff-to-student ratios is a warning signal for Australian universities to address the quality of their degrees, and for the Federal Government to reconsider funding cuts which worsen the situation.”
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For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

CAPA congratulates Australian universities on global rankings success and calls for postgraduate researchers’ contributions to be paid

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) congratulates Australian universities on their stellar results in the QS World University Rankings, noting that this success is only possible with the under-valued labour of postgraduate research students.

The QS World University Rankings are calculated based on six weighted criteria. Academic reputation accounts for 40% of the ranking, and citation rates for 20%. Quality and quantity of research output are therefore crucially important to universities’ rankings.

Postgraduate research students make substantial contributions to their universities’ research output, both through their own projects and through collaborating on the projects of others. In the sciences especially, many research students dedicate time to their supervisors’ activities. Currently, 57% of research hours conducted in Australian universities are performed by postgraduate research students.

Unfortunately, research students are not fairly paid for this work, and many are not paid at all. Almost two-thirds of commencing domestic research students miss out on a federally funded living stipend, and full-time research students without scholarships are not eligible for Centrelink. They rely on their savings and financial support from family to enable their research.

CAPA strongly believes that students and their families should not be subsidising universities’ ascension up global rankings lists.

“This fantastic result in the QS rankings would not be possible without the hard work of thousands of postgraduate research students. It is a disgrace that many of these research students are living in extreme poverty while contributing substantially to the research output of Australian universities,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.

“Postgraduate researchers deserve to be paid for their work, just like any other researchers.”
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For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993
E: president@capa.edu.au

CAPA NATSIPA header

NATSIPA and CAPA call for research classification system to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) are calling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research to be correctly categorised under the research classification system, in their joint submission to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) review.

The ANZSRC Fields of Research system captures all research and development activity undertaken in Australia and New Zealand. All research is assigned a six-digit “Fields of Research” code, which is categorised under a four-digit research “group”, which then feeds into a two-digit “division”. For example, a researcher may be working on the field Animal Behaviour (060801), which is categorised under the Zoology group (0608), which is then categorised under the Biological Science division (06) at the top level.

However, the existing codes do not allow for easy categorisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research. There are only 15 six-digit codes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research, and no four-digit or two-digit codes. This results in much Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research being incorrectly coded, as well as being invisible at the group and division level.

Due to the importance of the Fields of Research system in directing funding, NATSIPA and CAPA believe it is necessary to correctly categorise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research.

NATSIPA and CAPA are therefore calling for the creation of at least one four-digit code for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research, as well as additional six-digit codes to capture the breadth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research.

NATSIPA President, Jahmillah Johnson, says: “It is vital to correctly categorise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research and create additional codes of classification. Doing so will not only ensure that research funding is appropriately allocated but will ensure that as the field of research expands, we are not continually encountering the same problem.”

CAPA President, Natasha Abrahams, says: “The research classification system must be amended so that researchers working on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues are not disadvantaged when it comes to funding decisions.”

The joint NATSIPA and CAPA submission can be viewed here.
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For comment:
NATSIPA National President Jahmillah Johnson
M: 0420 361 365
E: president@natsipa.edu.au

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

Download – ANZSRC submission

We welcome this opportunity to contribute to the review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC). In our submission, we focus on the inadequacy of codes relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research. We recommend, firstly, that at least one four-digit FoR code be created for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research; secondly, that six-digit codes be expanded in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholars; thirdly, that a “not elsewhere classified” code be created to capture any further gaps; and finally, that all Higher Degree by Research students have an opportunity to review their code.