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MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA calls for Austudy and mental health support for postgrads in pre-budget submission

30 Jan 19

CAPA calls for Austudy and mental health support for postgrads in pre-budget submission

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has implored the Federal Government to better support postgraduate students, in our 2019-20 pre-budget submission.

Investment in education and research have been eroded over the past few years, in the name of budget repair. In spite of the Government’s declared commitment to an ‘innovation’ economy, the higher education sector has suffered continuous cuts and funding freezes.

With a budget surplus now projected, we echo the plea of Universities Australia that the Government must take this opportunity to reinvest in the nation’s research capabilities. In particular, there is an urgent need to develop Australia’s future innovators: our current and prospective postgraduate students.

In our pre-budget submission, we have renewed our call for income support to be extended to all domestic full-time postgraduate students. Currently, a limited and patchwork income support system is in place, where domestic postgraduate coursework students may be eligible for Centrelink study payments only if their course is listed as the minimum, fastest, or only pathway to gain an entry-level qualification for their profession. Seventy-two percent of Masters-level degrees are ineligible for income support, leaving students of these degrees scrambling to balance employment with their full-time studies. As financial pressures are a key reason that students withdraw from their studies prematurely, improving access to income support has the capacity to increase completion rates and therefore reduce wastage of government and student funds.

We furthermore call for better access to mental health support. Postgraduate students experience mental health disorders and distress at greater rates than undergraduate students. Access to psychological support and counselling is essential, and we therefore call on the Government to increase the number of sessions available under Mental Health Care Plans from the current 10 sessions, to 12 sessions per year. This additional time with a mental health professional will help students with difficult or ongoing mental health issues.

“Many postgraduate students are at breaking point. Extending income support and access to mental health care are essential to supporting students to complete and succeed in their studies,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.

“A postgraduate degree should not have to mean poverty and mental distress.”

In our pre-budget submission, we have also called for the Government to increase research funding following a horror year of cuts, and to investigate options for regulating the cost of tuition in postgraduate degrees.

The full submission can be downloaded from: http://www.capa.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Pre-budget-submission.docx

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