Instant noodles and extra jobs: PhD candidates ‘barely scraping by’ on stipends below minimum wage

Original Article

Students are pleading for reforms amid rising rent and cost of living, as experts warn research could suffer if people are put off higher study

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In Australia, every full-time PhD candidate is entitled to apply for a federal government tax-free scholarship. It’s currently sitting at $29,863, although it increases each year with inflation.

The Greens education spokesperson, senator Mehreen Faruqi, said government support for doctoral students was “completely inadequate” and should be lifted.

“With the rising cost of living, many students are barely scraping by,” she said.

“If we want Australian universities to produce the best quality, world-leading research, the government has to provide our researchers with a stipend to support themselves and ease cost of living pressures.”

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has been lobbying the government to classify PhD students as employees, which would enable greater leave entitlements and a guaranteed minimum wage. They say the minimum stipend should be increased by at least 15 to 20% in 2023 to ensure it remains above the poverty line.

“The work is the same, why aren’t we paid the same?” said Errol Phuah, the association’s national president.

Download: Comparative Review of the ARC

In our background research for the Review of the ARC Consultation Paper, we surveyed comparable research agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, France and Germany. Following the terms of reference to ‘reduce unnecessary administrative and legislative burden’, we decided to exclude some of the more elaborate operational structures found mainly in the French and German agencies.

Finally, we will address the concerns and challenges faced by postgraduate students in light of the abovementioned reflections and possible recommendations that will provide a competitive but level playing field for early career researchers. Above all, we look to recommend measures that are true to CAPA’s values which include the protection the academic freedom but also respect that this is achieved within the conventions of the Westminster system that our federal government operates under.