CAPA Senate Submission Highlights Inequities, Barriers to Medical Research

capa-state-library-940x300The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has made a twenty-seven page submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014, covering their opposition to a number of key policies including cuts to the Research Training Scheme, the introduction of fees on higher degrees by research, indexation on HECS-HELP debts of up to 6 per cent, and changes to ABSTUDY and AUSTUDY and the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme which will disproportionately impact on rural and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

You can read the full submission HERE.

“With the Government refusing to respond to feedback from student leaders, this Senate Inquiry has been our first real opportunity to have our grave concerns around the Budget measures heard and responded to” said President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, Ms Meghan Hopper.

Key points from CAPA’s submission:

  • While the Government claims it is funding extra medical research, the cost to become a medical researcher is set to more than double, with a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery, Honours, and a PhD, expected to come in at close to $140,000 (current cost: $61,200).
  • A recent tour of regional campuses in Central and Northern Australia conducted by the CAPA President and co-Vice President (Equity) revealed a serious lack of information and consultation from the Government with rural and Indigenous academic and student leaders.
  • “It cannot be stated too firmly, how opposed the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is to the way in which changes to the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme, ABSTUDY and the impact of deregulation and HDR fees, have been handled and the profound disrespect that has been shown to the leaders within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community who contributed to the Behrendt Review and to Indigenous academics and students, in failing to consult with them.”

In concluding CAPA’s submission, Ms Hopper said that the process had failed to engage with existing reviews of the higher education sector, or to consult with student leaders, from start to finish.

“The Minister for Education should be taking as his basis for reforms to the Higher Education sector, not the bottom line that happens to appear on this year’s Budget or the media grabs provided by the cohorts within the sector that are financially benefited by the introduction of fee deregulation, but the expert views of representatives commissioned by prior Governments with the specific task of reforming the Higher Education sector. ”

“These reviews each provide an in-depth, long-term vision for higher education in Australia and whilst we do not agree with all of their recommendations, we believe that they provide the foundation for real and considered change.”

“To ignore these important contributions by life-long educators and higher education reformers, in deference to a Budget package that was rushed out by a Minister in his first year following no attempted consultation with the sector and no engagement with the standing evidence, is complete folly.”

The submission incorporates feedback from thousands of current and prospective postgraduate students gathered as part of CAPA’s ‘No Fees on PhDs’ campaign.

‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’ cuts vital funding for Indigenous students

Indigenous Fulbright Scholar: “ITAS was vital to my education”

atsi2-01-940x300The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has expressed its strong condemnation of proposed government funding cuts to the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS), with their Vice President (Equity) saying the program was “vital” to her education.

“ITAS was vital to my education,” said Vice President (Equity) of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) and 2014 Indigenous Fulbright Scholar, Sadie Heckenberg. “I had ITAS tutors in primary school, secondary school and in my first years of University. “

“I can say with absolute certainty that without ITAS I would be nowhere near where I am today” Ms Heckenberg said.

Since its introduction in 1993 ITAS has been a vital source of support to Indigenous students from kindergarten right through to postgraduate studies, and has improved Indigenous parity within Australian Universities.

Universities currently receive funding for ITAS based on their number of enrolled Indigenous students.  Each student is given the opportunity to have a qualified tutor for two hours per week per subject.

The Government is proposing to replace the ITAS program from 2015 with a competitive grants process.

The sudden announcement has put major pressure on Indigenous centres and organizations, many of whom may miss out on funding if they are unable to make a submission by the closing date of October 7th.

President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, Meghan Hopper said that a recent tour of remote and regional campuses had demonstrated to her the success of ITAS.

“Just days before the Government proposal to cut ITAS funding emerged I had the great pleasure of touring a number of small and regional campuses with significant Indigenous student populations and Indigenous research centres, including the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Charles Darwin University, James Cook University, the University of South Australia and the University of Sunshine Coast” Ms Hopper said.

“Time and time again academics, students and student support workers at these institutions reaffirmed the value of the current ITAS program” said Ms Hopper.

“The previous Government undertook a significant review into Higher Education access and outcomes for Indigenous people in 2012, chaired by Professor Larissa Behrendt – nowhere in that review was it proposed to turn the funding of ITAS into a competitive grant process” Ms Hopper said.

“This Government needs to stop making it up as they go along, and instead look at the research and the recommendations of experts as they make funding decisions around access and equity in the higher education sector” said Ms Hopper.

Ms Heckenberg, who next week will travel to the University of Hawai’I to undertake research in Indigenous oral histories and languages as part of her Fulbright scholarship, said that the changes to ITAS would have a profound effect on the next generation of Indigenous students.

“Having also been an ITAS tutor in my later years of university I have seen time and time again the wonderful effects this scheme has on students. I am so appalled and saddened that the government cares so little for Indigenous students”, said Ms Heckenberg.


Meghan B. Hopper, CAPA National President / 0421 807 303