The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes the Higher Education Standards Panel’s scrutiny of attrition rates in the Improving Retention, Completion and Success in Higher Education report released earlier today.
The Higher Education Standards Panel’s report, and the Minister for Education’s acceptance of its recommendations, are important first steps in raising the profile of why some students struggle to complete their studies.
CAPA appreciates the panel’s recommendation that each educational institution should have a mental health strategy. Students frequently tell us about the long waiting lists for counselling, and the inadequacy of emergency mental health care services available on campus. Any mental health strategy must be supported by a genuine commitment and adequate resourcing, including appropriate staffing levels of university counselling services.
Furthermore, CAPA advocates that targeting the underlying causes of distress and mental health issues in students should be made a priority. For example, for doctoral students, the key issues are financial stress, difficult supervision relationships, career uncertainty, and problematic departmental cultures.
“Postgraduate students consistently tell us that the main obstacles to completing their studies are a lack of financial stability, and mental health issues. In addition to this, many students have indicated that these two factors feed into one another,” said CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.
“It is crucial for the universities and the Federal Government to work together to provide support for postgraduate students. A multi-faceted approach is necessary if they wish for these students to thrive in their time at university. This includes the long-overdue expansion of study payments to postgraduate students.”
CAPA notes that the panel’s report finds off-campus students are over twice as likely as on-campus students to withdraw from their studies. Many external students would prefer to study on-campus, but cannot due to their work commitments. Offering income support to domestic postgraduate students in need would give these students more freedom to study on-campus and fully participate in university life, thus improving their student experience and ultimately their study outcomes.
For further comment:
CAPA National President
M: 0430 076 993