7 December 2015 – The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes the Governments Innovation Statement. CAPA is pleased to see that $127M will be put back into the Research Block Grants, and that $13M in funding will help create more opportunities for women to pursue careers in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
‘But if the government is serious about improving participation in STEM disciplines more than $13M will be required to shift the prevailing culture and attitude. A fundamental cultural shift needs to occur, one that will require ongoing commitment over a significant period of time to reverse the current gap in participation’ Said Harry Rolf, the National President.
2014 higher education enrolment data available from the Department of Education and Training shows that in 2014 only 16% of domestic students were female, and only 22% of overseas students.
|Field of study||Domestic Students||Overseas Students|
|Engineering and Related Technologies||85%||15%||81%||19%|
Table 1: 2014 student enrolments, Department of Education and Training – Higher Education Statistics Data Cube (uCube)
‘Similarly $127M in additional funding for research and research training is an important step forward, but it is only a small step towards restoring research funding cut over successive budgets. CAPA also has concerns about how the proposed Research Training Programme linked to this additional funding will be implemented’.
The Research Training Programme will likely replace existing Research Block Grant schemes including the Research Training Scheme (RTS), Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) and the International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS) scheme.
‘The motivation is to give universities flexible research training funds, allowing them to address issues such as inadequate scholarship rates, their duration, availability and the full cost of research training. The proposed change would give universities flexibility to increase the funding per Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidate, but with no minimum standards set the opposite may also be true. Universities may provide less support per HDR candidate’.
A potential driver for such behaviour is that, while research quality, engagement and HDR candidate completions will be used to determine funding rates, there is no clear indicator of quality research training.
‘Currently there is no measure for quality in research training applied to funding formula. This is an opportunity to include a measure of quality in the distribution of research training funds. Otherwise funding will continue to be driven by the rate of HDR completions and a universities research income’.
‘The announcement today shows a willingness by Government to engage with these challenges and CAPA is optimistic that the Government will continue to engage on these initiatives. We are willing to take the Minister for Education and Training up on his offer to consult with key stakeholders about the plan to replace the existing suite of research block grants with a simpler, more transparent system’ Concluded Harry Rolf.