2000 – Analysis of the Research White Paper

Attachment: CAPA Paper

The purpose of this paper is to bring constituents up to date with developments with the White Paper Knowledge and Innovation: A Policy Statement on Research and Research Training which was released on the 22nd of December 1999. It is important to emphasise that the White Paper had even less detail than the Green Paper and to date crucial details are yet to be clarified by DETYA or the Minister. This lack of clarity means that no detailed financial modelling has been done by DETYA, AVCC or CAPA.

2. Green Paper to White Paper

The White Paper on research education and university research Knowledge and Innovation: A Policy Statement on Research and Research Training is the product of a long process of development. Minister Kemp released the Government’s Green Paper New Knowledge, New Opportunities (or provisional policy) on the 30th of June 1999. (It is telling that ‘new’ was dropped in the latter document’s title)

The Green Paper contained a number of proposals that are anathema to the interests of postgraduate students. It targeted research and research studies as a ‘soft’ area in which to pilot four elements of the Government’s ultra economically dry education blueprint. These are:

  • student vouchers;
  • up-front fees as co-payments;
  • the redistribution of government funding for university research and teaching to private, non-university providers; and
  • the redirection of university research and teaching funds to commercial projects conducted by private companies.

The release date of the Green Paper had been set back many months in part due to a tug-of-war between the ARC and DETYA over which would control research and research studies. (A confidential early draft released to 5 vice-chancellors for comment proposed abolishing the ARC in its entirety and placing all research funding into block grants.) Despite its lengthy gestation period the Green Paper contained no modelling of the impacts of its proposals.

CAPA’s response to the Green Paper was in two stages. The first was an immediate effort to build a broad coalition against the ‘Trojan-horse’ of the postgraduate vouchers proposal. CAPA correctly predicted that this proposal was the spearhead for a much broader agenda encompassing the entire higher education sector. As discussed below, with much hard work and some luck, CAPA’s approach was eventually successful in stymieing the vouchers proposal. The second stage of CAPA’s response was to undertake substantial analysis of the actual impacts of the Green Paper’s proposals on postgraduate students and on universities; something the Government and DETYA had failed to do.

Under the Green Paper system Higher Degrees Research (HDR) students would be significantly worse off in at least three areas.

  1. The length of funding for candidature falls from 5 to 3.5 years for PhD and 3 to 2 for a Masters.
  2. Mobility and other provisions reduced.
  3. Students pay full fees where their term of candidature exceeds the funded period.

Thus, if adopted in full the Green Paper would have placed students in the invidious position of being forced to hand up work which was less than the current internationally recognised standard for HDR or face a crushing financial impost.

While some aspects of the Green Paper were obvious, others, such as the impacts of its proposal to relocate HDR places across the entire sector, required modelling and public discussion if the practical impacts were to be made known. However, for the most part it was not possible to make an analysis of the impact of the Green Paper on the system as a whole or on individual universities due to its lack of data and modelling. This point was not lost on universities and the AVCC who set about the task of getting additional information from DETYA and establishing credible independent modelling.

Fortunately, CAPA was also able to contract the services of consultants with similar skill and access to data. The findings of this analysis – and that done independently by universities – was that the Green Paper system redistributed funding for HDR and research in quite a random manner. Some universities were to receive a massive windfall and others set to lose large amounts of operating grant and research funds. This became a public issue as the analysis done by individual universities trickled into the public domain. For example, only days after being presented by the Treasurer with the Good Universities Guide University of the Year Award, Deakin University announced that the Green Paper would strip it of most of its research higher degree places.

As well as these re-allocation effects, the Green Paper established, for the first time in Australia, a mechanism which allowed public funding of private non-university institutions for teaching and research. Not only would diversion of public funds to private providers further dilute diminishing public investment it raises significant questions about the probity and independence of research in such environments. The Green Paper funding framework also has a very negative impact on basic research – the predominate form of research undertaken by universities. Moreover by removing minimum funding for institutions for research, the Green Paper effectively re-introduced the binary system in which research was disaggregated from teaching.

In summary, students, universities and public education were set to be the big losers under the Green Paper. Many of the worst effects of the Green Paper have been dropped or modified in the White Paper however a number have not.

Attachment: CAPA Submission

Proposed Implementation of the Research Training Scheme
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has many
reservations about the policy basis and the complexity of the implementation
of the RTS.