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MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA urges the Government: To prevent the next ‘Brain Drain’ fund researchers now

21 Sep 20

CAPA urges the Government: To prevent the next ‘Brain Drain’ fund researchers now 

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) are urgently renewing our calls to the Government for adequate funding to support postgraduate students, before we lose the next generation of brilliant talent, ahead of this year’s Budget. Contributing to over 50% of universities’ share of human resources dedicated to research (ABS 2018), graduate researchers are the often unseen backbone of the national research output, without which Australian research would grind to a halt. 

They have not only been at the forefront of getting us through this pandemic, by doing coronavirus research, Graduate students develop and share important new knowledge, by publication, which contributes to the university’s world rankings, and boosts the Australian higher education sector’s global reputation. Universities use these measures to distinguish themselves from each other and to attract international students to their campuses, which is important to the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and postgraduate students have been no exception. Post COVID we face the biggest economic challenge our generation has ever confronted. We have heard so much about how education and research will be integral to rebuilding the economy. However, among all of these debates around reform, postgraduates have fallen between the cracks and left behind”, said CAPA’s National President Romana Begicevic.

CAPA has been raising concerns about the precarious position facing postgraduate students’ for years. COVID-19 has further exposed these cracks within the system. If we fail to support postgraduate students properly now, we are at risk of losing the next generation of brilliant talent. 

“This will result in a ‘brain drain’ where many graduates will instead venture overseas to explore more competitive career opportunities, or worse yet dropping out, because continuing their research is not financially sustainable. More importantly, we will lose the ability to respond to future pandemics. We believe our pre-budget recommendations would protect students from the very worst of these impacts”, explains Ms Begicevic.

CAPA calls on the governments to adequately fund postgrads and recommend:

  1. That all domestic Higher Degree by Research students be paid a stipend for the duration of their research degree.
  2. That all domestic self-funded postgraduate students be eligible to receive Austudy, subject to means-testing.
  3. That the Government provides ongoing adequate funding for university teaching and research.
  4. That the government provides a one-off payment to universities to support RTP scholarship extensions to 4.5 years for all HDR students at Australian universities. 
  5. A Jobmaker initiative should include research jobs by increasing public research funding initiatives (e.g., ARC, NHMRC, research block grant, or other research infrastructure funding) that will stimulate industry collaborations that will create new jobs by developing new industries (e.g., start-ups/spin off businesses). 
  6. That some attention and support be brought to addressing the mental health concerns of postgraduate students at universities, both coursework and research.  
  7. That the Government amends the Commonwealth Scholarships Guidelines to establish paid family violence leave, and provides an additional $491,000 to universities to fund a family violence leave scheme for recipients of Research Training Program stipends.

The value of postgraduate students to their university is more than just the tuition fee used for funding research or low-cost researchers. The real value of postgraduate students is much greater. We want to remind Australia the value of its postgraduate students, and why investing in them is investing in Australia’s future, through our #Valuepostgrads campaign! 

For comment:
CAPA National President Romana Begicevic
M: 0420 258 404