Policy Submissions

Submission on ‘COVID-19: From a research student’s perspective.’

28 May 20

Download : Submission on COVID-19: From a research student’s perspective.’

The global COVID-19 pandemic has placed a heavy burden on our society, and among the most vulnerable groups are self-funded postgraduate research students. Inadequate access to income was already a major contributing factor to poor mental health among students and many now face graduating during a severe economic downturn, and being exposed to poor career outcomes.
We are particularly concerned that the additional burdens from COVID-19 will lead to a surge of research students withdrawing from their degrees. This will have a significant impact on the international reputation of our universities, as research students contribute to 56% of paid hours of research and development (ABS 2018).

Our submission focuses on issues experienced by domestic and international Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students, and how they are currently falling through the cracks when it comes to relief funding.
We recommend:

  1. That government provide one-off payments to universities to support RTP scholarship
    extensions to 4.5 years for all HDR students at all universities
  2. That all domestic self-funded postgraduate students be eligible to receive Austudy,
    subject to means-testing
  3. 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)
  4. That free visa extensions and ongoing financial support be made available for
    international postgraduate students to allow greater flexibility for them to convert
    their degrees to equivalent part-time student load (EPTSL)