MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA calls for student income support and secure work for uni staff in Newstart Inquiry

CAPA calls for student income support and secure work for uni staff in Newstart Inquiry

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) urges the Government to extend and improve income support for all domestic students and for a reduction in insecure employment for university employees, in a submission to the Senate Inquiry on Newstart and related payments.

In our submission, we renew our call for income support programs such as Austudy to be extended to all domestic full-time postgraduate students, subject to means testing. It has been more than a decade since the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education found that income support should be available to students enrolled in all postgraduate coursework programs, yet there is still no universal entitlement to income support for low-income domestic postgraduate research and coursework students. Eligibility for income support is based on course of enrolment, but only a minority of Masters courses are eligible for income support according to an arbitrary list released by the Government, with research students unable to access any Centrelink study payments at all.

Under this system, many students living in extreme poverty are not able to access Centrelink payments. This results in students experiencing homelessness and skipping meals in order to survive. We urge the Government to urgently address this travesty.

We furthermore are concerned about the impact of insecure work in universities on the welfare system. Two-thirds of university staff are employed either as casuals or on short-term contracts. Many of these casually employed university staff are also postgraduate students. Insecure work in universities results in highly-qualified individuals relying upon income support and community charity resources to make ends meet when in between contracts. This state of affairs could be entirely prevented by the implementation of fair employment conditions for university employees, resulting in better educational and research outcomes, and eliminating an unnecessary welfare burden on Australian taxpayers.

We therefore implore the Government to incentivise public higher education providers to increase secure employment in their staffing profiles.
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993

Download – Submission to Senate Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart and Related Payments

In this submission, we argue that current income support payments for domestic students are inadequate and exclude many low-income students who are in need of income support. Further, we argue that increasing current income support payments and scholarships, and extending income support to all domestic postgraduate students would be result in increased course completion rates. Specifically, we recommend the following:

Recommendation one: That income support be expanded to domestic students of all postgraduate coursework degrees, subject to means testing of the student.

Recommendation two: That the rate of Austudy be urgently increased in order to help students afford housing.

Recommendation three: That Austudy eligibility be established for domestic students of all research degrees who are not receiving an RTP scholarship or another scholarship of an equivalent or higher amount, subject to means testing of the student.

Recommendation four: That RTP PhD stipends be extended to a minimum of 4 years and Masters by Research stipends to no less than 2 years.

Recommendation five: That the value of RTP stipends be increased to at least minimum wage.

Recommendation six: That the Commonwealth Government implement measures that incentivise publicly funded higher education providers to reduce the proportion of their staff employed on short-term or casual contacts.