2006 – Commercialisation Training Scheme: Response to the Issues Paper

Attachment: CAPA Submission


The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is the national peak body of postgraduate student organisations representing Australia’s 257,700 postgraduate students, including 47,300 research students. These research
students contribute approximately 70% of the research conducted in Australian universities.

The Issues Paper addresses the administrative arrangements for implementation of the Commercialisation Training Scheme, and specifically seeks feedback from Higher Education Providers. However, as the organisation representing the
potential recipients of these awards, CAPA would briefly like to draw attention to some areas of concern.

General comments on the scheme

While CAPA is supportive of the opportunity for students to gain additional skills, attention should not be diverted from the purpose of undertaking a research degree. In addition, students who are well supervised in universities that provide the necessary resources and extension and networking opportunities, will naturally acquire many of the skills that this scheme is promoting. CAPA rejects any suggestion that research graduates are not career ready. While this scheme is small in focus and funding, we are concerned that it may constitute the beginning of an attempt to change the purpose and direction of Australian research degrees.

The scheme is intended to assist business and industry by training potential employees in the skills and experience that might normally be developed through paid employment. Industry, as a major beneficiary, should contribute towards the funding of the scheme. This would free up government support to be directed towards related skills development for those involved in research that is not applied or immediately commercialisable.

The CRCs conduct training programs for their students that appear to be similar to the intentions of this scheme. An analysis and audit of these programs may well inform the decisions regarding the commercialisation-specific skills training that is most beneficial.

The Chief Scientist Dr Jim Peacock has counselled against interpreting the “drive to commercialisation…too literally.” We agree with this advice, and suggest that the concept of ‘commercial benefit’ and the links to ‘economic, social and environmental wellbeing’ must be explored further. We are concerned that otherwise the training may focus disproportionately on immediate benefit. Research outcomes are intrinsically unpredictable and efforts to identify short-term beneficiaries could fail to support potential capability.