CAPA condemns vague and unfair higher education cuts

Media release: CAPA condemns vague and unfair higher education cuts

18 December 2017 – The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is concerned about the implications of changes to higher education funding announced in today’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

CAPA is disturbed by the suggestion of a new allocation mechanism which is constrained by what is vaguely referred to as “institutional outcomes and industry needs”. Giving industry too much input into available postgraduate places in different courses is pernicious for two reasons. Firstly, industry needs and economic circumstances are prone to rapid changes. Therefore, any decisions made on the basis of industry demand are at risk of becoming outdated by the time that graduates are produced. Secondly, it demonstrates shortsightedness in regards to the skills and knowledge brought by graduates from fields not traditionally valued by industry. CAPA nervously awaits further detail on this proposal.

CAPA is furthermore saddened that the Federal Government seeks to press on with a lowered repayment threshold for student debt, forcing students to begin repaying their HELP loans upon reaching a yearly income of $45,000 (as opposed to the current threshold of $55,874). This targets some of the most vulnerable university graduates. The money recovered from this proposal will be minimal for the Government, yet makes a large difference to the personal circumstances of low-income graduates. While CAPA has no problem with those in the higher income bracket paying off their HECS sooner at the 10% rate, attacking the lower income earning graduates by lowering the threshold is the wrong move. CAPA has repeatedly condemned the lowered repayment threshold in the past, and hopes that Senators will stand with students to reject this unfair change.

With the freezing of the Commonwealth Support Placements for 2018 and 2019, it is expected that $2.1 billion will be ripped from universities in yet another attempt at toe-cutting. While the cuts are in no way surprising, it is disappointing to see the Federal Government go behind the back of the Senate in this fashion. This freeze also signals the death of the demand-driven system through an administrative decision rather than a discussion about the importance and merits of an educated Australia.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:
“These cuts are cowardly moves by the Minister who, instead of working with the Senate and sector, has gone behind the backs of all those that support higher education.”

“A new, yet undisclosed, allocation method for postgraduate places is yet another random thought bubble without any clarification as to what these methods will mean for the sector or for the students.”

“We maintain that the changing of the terms of a loan retrospectively is fundamentally wrong and unfair for those that already have a HELP debt.”


For comment: CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
M: 0435 047 817

Today the National Union of Students (NUS), the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) and the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA) have joined forces in a move that will irrevocably strengthen the student voice in Australia.

In this historic move, the 4 national student bodies are formally brought together for the first time under an agreement that will heighten student representation and change the way the student voice is heard throughout the higher education sector.

Unique skills and experiences will be brought together from each of the national bodies that will make the student voice in Australia one of the strongest in the world. Now, with the student bodies working in concert on the major issues, the higher education sector will have to face a united front on student issues.

While the Spring Agreement ensures that the student bodies remain independent and able to tackle their own specific work, the agreement provides a strategic avenue for future collaborations that will strengthen student representation nationally.

The timing of this agreement is also significant with more higher education cuts anticipated by the end of the year. The Federal Government will now have to face a united student body if they want to cut equity programs, research or the demand-driven system.

CAPA quote
“For years now there have been cuts to higher education in Australia, well now the student will stand up united for universities and for education in Australia.” Says CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire

NUS quote
“When a government has spent so long attacking its students and young people, it became inevitable for us to join forces and work together to fight for a high quality, accessible and well-funded education system in Australia,” says NUS President, Sophie Johnston

“The sector has tried to create a divide between undergrads and postgrads, international and domestic students, regional and metropolitan students, students from low SES backgrounds and Indigenous students. Today we put a stop to that. All our student cohorts face similar issues and we will fight for them as a united front. This is a win for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ representation and student voices as a whole.” Says NATISPA President Sadie Heckenberg

CISA quote
“The united student voice would be stronger and louder in Australia. CISA is committed to bridging the gap between domestic and international students and this step forward with the other national peak bodies will provide avenues for CISA to raise international student voice louder and clearer with the help of domestic peak bodies and students.” Says CISA President Bijay Sapkota

For further comment;
CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
E: P: 0435 047 817

NUS National President, Sophie Johnston
E: P: 0411 606 808

NATSIPA President, Sadie Heckenberg
E: P: 0422 945 837

CISA President, Bijay Sapkota


View the Spring Agreement here.

Attachment: CAPA 2018-19 Pre-Budget Submission

Over the past 2 years, the Federal Government has repeatedly declared their commitment to innovation. Yet, at present, Australia’s tertiary education system has one of the lowest ratios of public funding to GDP in the OECD.1 Federal Government funding for higher education has declined substantially over the past few years (by $4 billion since 2011). Moreover, previous plans to increase income support for postgraduate students have been shelved, threatening completion rates and limiting postgraduate degree participation. CAPA also remains deeply concerned about the higher education legislation proposed throughout the course of 2017 and the impact such changes would have on postgraduates. This environment of uncertainty and decline has negatively impacted universities’ ability to teach the researchers and innovators of the future. Our universities need improved and stable funding for research, teaching, and infrastructure if they are to be globally competitive: a point reiterated by the government’s own expert reviewers in recent years. 2 3 On this basis, we outline a series of priority areas:

❖ Extending income support for domestic postgraduates

❖ Increasing research training funding

❖ Reducing inequalities

❖ Increasing dedicated funding for early career research

The 2017 Annual Council Meeting has drawn to a close, having facilitated postgraduate representatives from all over Australia to come together, share ideas, make new connections, and set the direction for CAPA in 2018. One of the functions of the ACM is to conduct elections for the following year’s national postgraduate student representatives. We are pleased to announce a strong office bearer team elected for 2018:


Executive Committee:
President: Natasha Abrahams
Vice President (National Operations Committee): Anish Saini
Vice President (Equity): Mick Fox
NATSIPA Liaison Officer (interim, pending NATSIPA elections): Sharlene Leroy-Dyer
General Secretary: Dylan Styles
Policy and Research Advisor: Simon Burnett
Media Officer: Zoë Tulip

Equity officers:
International Officer: Florian Spalthoff
Disabilities Officer: Marguerite Biasatti
Women’s Officer: Vacant
Queer Officer: Vacant

Branch presidents:
Western Branch Presidents: Romana-Rea Begicevic & Peter Watson
South Eastern Branch Presidents: Maaz Sharieff & Ganesh Reddy
Eastern Branch President: Madhur Chhabra
Northern Branch President: Saira Khan
Central Branch President: Vacant

The new office bearers commence their term on the first of January. By-elections will be held to fill the vacant positions of Queer Officer, Women’s Officer, and Central Branch President.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is outraged at the ongoing problem of wage theft among our international students. CAPA is calling on the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash and Education Minister Simon Birmingham to urgently address this issue.

CAPA is dismayed, yet not surprised at the outcome of the ‘Wage Theft in Australia’ report, knowing that international students have been taken advantage of constantly in the work place. With one quarter of international students being paid $12 per hour or less, and others being forced to pay money back to their employers after getting the minimum wage, it is clear this epidemic needs to be addressed now.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recently been campaigning to ensure students know their rights to be treated and paid fairly at work, but clearly this is not sufficient to change the culture of wage theft and student exploitation. There is a myth that international students are wealthy, however, as the report clearly indicates, a shocking amount of international students face difficult and exploitative circumstances while attending Australian universities.

Today, CAPA put the call out looking for international students that have faced underpayment but almost all of them were afraid to speak up or name their workplace for fear that their visa would not be renewed.
It is time for the Federal Government to get back to work and start addressing these issues.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:  

“It seems if you are a domestic student and getting your penalty rates cut or an international student and having your wages stolen the Federal Government clearly doesn’t care about workers”

“While the Turnbull Government takes a week off there are workers out there being ripped off. How about showing up and dealing with these issues”

For Comment: 
CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
M: 0435 047 817


My name is Ola, I am a PhD student in Economics at Monash university Clayton. I am passionate about coffee and reading historical fiction novels. My favourite books are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Counte of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I have just finished my first year of PhD and I found it more difficult than I expected or wanted it to be but it is so rewarding to be in an environment of intelligent thinkers and knowing I have all the advantages to write the best papers that will hopefully make meaningful contributions to society.

I have always wanted to start a vlog but I was hoping to get a really good camera first. For now I use my iPhone. I started this vlog because it is a creative outlet for me and I can document my time studying in Australia. I mostly do it to share with my family and friends but I hope it can be helpful to anyone considering doing a PhD especially in Economics.

Feel free to view her PhD Vlog 2  and Vlog 3 as this tells some of her experiences in her 1st year as a PhD student and also subscribe, like and share.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is happy to see that majority of Australians are fair people and believe in equality for all. The yes result from the same sex marriage survey shows what the polling has suggested all along. It shows that it is past time that the LGBTIQA+ community had equal rights to marry.

Now that the Turnbull government has the result of their $120 million postal vote, the Turnbull government must fulfil its promises of the delivery of a marriage equality bill that is fair and reflects the desire of the Australian people. With all the leaders of the major parties in favour of marriage equality, there is no reason why parliament cannot push for a marriage equality bill.

Marriage is just one of the many discriminations that face LGBTQIA+ community. Same sex marriage may become legal in Australia still has further to go. Many people in our community still face an incredible amount of discrimination in their day to day lives. It is important we still fight for the rights for people in the LGBTQIA+ community. The attack on Safe Schools and Transgender people have been so evident within the marriage equality debate, it is important that we affirm the rights and safety of trans people and young LGBTQIA+ people.

The Australian people have spoken. It was a survey the LGBTQIA+ community did not want but has survived, and the Australian people have spoken. It is time our elected representatives remember what they are there for and that is to represent the people. Not just themselves, not just people that think like them and not just their cycling mates. Our elected representative need to remember there is an election right around the corner and if you go against the voice of the people it will be remembered at the next election.

CAPA will continue to fight for same sex marriage and for the equal rights of all LGBTQIA+ people.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:

“Same sex marriage should have been legalised years ago and this process has been a farce from start to finish. It is time to get on with it.”

CAPA Vice-President Equity Vibol Hy says:

“The Australian public voted on whether to change the law to allow Same Sex Marriage they did not vote for changes to the marriage act that furthers more discrimination to the LGBTIQA+ community.”


For Comment
CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
M: 0435 047 817


It has been three months since the release of the sexual harassment and sexual assault survey undertaken by Universities Australia. Responding to this survey the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) released a set of 19 recommendations aimed at countering this sector wide problem.

The campaign to stop sexual assault and harassment at Australian universities is an ongoing one, and, after three months, it is now time to evaluate the sectors progress so far. CAPA will now be contacting vice-chancellors across the country to establish which of the recommendations from CAPA and Universities Australia have been implemented.

An essential recommendation was the inclusion of students in the development of sexual assault and sexual harassment policy. This will be a key focus in our survey, where, we will also be asking student leaders about their engagement in policy development at universities.

A number of universities and organisations have responded positively to the recommendation presented by CAPA and we are looking for further compliance. These recommendations included such initiatives like the development of community standards and educational programs for students.

Tackling this issue is a challenge for everyone involved but a systematic approach needs to be maintained as well as continued, national monitoring of progress.

CAPA Women’s Officer Alyssa Shaw says:
“The results of the survey was the beginning to addressing this issue but it is essential that an ongoing effort is maintained.”

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:
“The task ahead of the entire sector is a big one but CAPA is committed to continue working with universities until everyone can feel safe on campus.”

For Comment

CAPA National President                                             CAPA Women’s Officer
Peter Derbyshire                                                            Alyssa Shaw
E:                                           E:
M: 0435 047 817                                                            M: 0414 792 540

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Meet Dunya Al-Ruhaimi. Dunya is from Iraq and was awarded an International Student Award in 2015. She came in to Australia in 2013 and studied a Master in Education at the University of New England, Armidale. When she moved to Australia with her husband and her two kids, she was warmly welcomed by her university’s international student office.  She is now working as the Project Officer at the International Student Hub, University of New England.

Dunya recently won the international alumni pie award of 2017 and the study hub got the study NSW international student award of 2017

 I was proud to meet Dunya at the CISA 2017 conference and approached her on sharing her story. One of the things that struck me with Dunya’s story and her journey as an International postgraduate student is her zealous attitude towards caring for the international community even whilst studying and her tenacious efforts at making the International community in Armidale feel welcomed and involved with Australian culture.  Hopefully this inspires you.

Dunya Al-Ruhaimi is influenced by her mum’s perspective on the importance of education as it is a powerful tool for everyone especially women and their families. She feels education is a passport for living a good life. Unfortunately, Dunya’s mum passed away in her fourth year as an undergrad. Dunya was inspired by her mum especially with community engagement and helping others. She was very much interested with the women community in Armidale, NSW and she sought diverse ways to create a safe space for these women, children and their family.

Volunteering Activities as a Student

While being a student, Dunya was interested in international women in the community especially those who were not students and could not access the community because of cultural barriers and language limitations. As a mother and wife, she understood the possible challenges women face. She sought ways to provide a platform for the women and their families to engage with the community and interact with other women in the community. She established an International ladies group for students’ spouses where they meet and interact.  Dunya volunteered as an interpreter with Arabic women in many doctor appointments, child care consultations and a host of many other needs. Dunya devoted her time in the Arabic community by assisting Arabic speakers to cope with the ELC learning system (essay writing).  Dunya was not just interested in helping those from her own community, she also helped new international students settle down in Australia. In 2014, Dunya helped parents to be able to understand the Australian School system through a programme called HIPPY Australia. she is always glad to put a smile on people’s faces.

ABC also captured her inspiring story as part of a series of short films about international students studying in NSW which can be found here

Activities as the Project Officer at the International Student Hub

Even after graduation, Dunya has been community focus and driven. Through the International Student Hub, she has offered three free driving lessons for International students and their families living in Armidale. For those living in a small city as Armidale, with limited choices of public transport, owning a car and getting your licence is very essential. Dunya feels that driving lessons are very essential as the road rules are a lot different in many countries.

Also, through the International Hub, Dunya has engaged in offering a weekly english lesson classes for International Students, positive parenting programs, water awareness programs for mums and kids, closed fitness classes for International ladies and mix aerobics class for men and women amongst many others.





The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is gladdened to hear Senators talk about real reform when it comes to Higher Education. With the Nick Xenophon team rejecting key aspects of the bill it is now clear to the Federal Government that a good hard look at the higher education sector is what is needed.

The Higher Education Legislation would have meant billions being ripped from Australia’s third largest industry and leave students paying even higher fees. The rejection of this bill gives time and certainty for everyone involved to take a step back and focus on developing the best universities in the world.

CAPA would also like to acknowledge Senator Jacqui Lambie, Senator Derryn Hinch, the four One Nation Senators led by Senator Pauline Hanson, Labor and the Greens, all of whom have made it clear that protecting Australia’s Universities is in the best interest of the entire country.

For a long time students, universities and the Australian public have been clear in their support for universities and it is now time for the Federal Government to sit down with the sector and develop real, innovative reform not just cutting funding and increasing fees.

CAPA looks forward to the coming review and discussions centred around Higher Education and will happily work alongside the sector and the Federal Government to build a plan that will secure Australian Universities for decades to come.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:

“For too long the sector has had to focus on fighting off cut after cut instead of being given the opportunity to make real positive changes”

“We, like the rest of the sector, recognise the need for changes in higher education but they have to be part of a bigger plan and there has to be genuine consultation with the entire sector. Students included.”

For Comment: CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
M: 0435 047 817

Today the four peak national student representative bodies strongly condemn Senator Cory Bernardi’s attempt to attack student services and representation. The motion is to undermine the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) that funds a majority of support and services on Australian campuses. As the national student representative bodies, we support the SSAF as an essential mechanism for the funding of services not provided by universities.

 It has long been the position of the peak bodies that students associations should oversee how the student services and amenities is spent. Currently, students directly decide where their funds are spent through annual democratic elections. The only time students do not get a say is when universities keep the SSAF to themselves or student unions are shut down in place of an appointed board.

This is a clear attack on student unions across the country that already face serious financial pressure. Student unions use the SSAF to provide essential student support including counselling, employment and training programs, legal support, leadership development along with many other services.

CAPA, NUS, and NATSIPA condemns Senator Bernardi’s motion and calls upon the Senate to protect students and student unions.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:

“Postgraduate students at universities across the country rely on the services provided by their student unions and associations, and without the SSAF these bodies would cease to function as we know them, with most if not all being forced to shut down or severely curtail their operations. This includes the meals, legal assistance and academic advocacy which for many students make the difference between continuing and excelling in their studies and being forced to drop out.”

 NUS National President Sophie Johnston says:

“SSAF is the only pool of funding that guarantees student support and services are well-funded and accessible within our universities. Education already seems to be at the bottom of the barrel for our politicians in a time of serious employment and wage uncertainty for young Australians. We’ve seen nothing but short-term, tinkering-at-the-edges policy from our parliament and attacking SSAF is just another illogical move with no real gains.”

 NATSIPA National President Sadie Heckenberg says:

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are already facing major hurdles that directly affect our ability to access and retain higher education. Cuts to HEPPP, proposed cuts to Away From Base funding, possible fees for pathways programs and severe slashing of vital services such as ITAS tutoring makes an alienating environment that much more overwhelming. SSAF allows student representative bodies to create safe spaces for students within this environment. SSAF gives our students lifesaving services. Gives our student unions and associations the ability to be there and support their fellow students. Why take away what little we have left? Why take away something that saves lives?”

CISA Vice-President Ahmed Ademoglu says:
“Student experience is an important aspect of international education in Australia. Many international students finish their degrees with great moments from the activities and support they receive from their institutions and SSAF funding is the major asset towards this experience.”


For Comment:

 CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire E: P: 0435 047 817

NUS National President, Sophie Johnston E: P: 0411 606 808

NATSIPA President, Sadie Heckenberg E: P: 0422 945 837

CISA Vice-President, Ahmed Ademoglu E:

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is dismayed by the move to axe the Education Investment Fund (EIF) after spruiking the importance of research to Australia.

The EIF was essential in ensuring research infrastructure could be developed and maintained well into the future. Research funding requires long term planning according to the Bradley and the Clark and the EIF provided a way for this to occur.

While the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is an important program, results from the 2016-17 final budget outcome show that there are other ways in which the NDIS can be fully funded. Removing a fund that provides an avenue for development, job creation, and economic benefit should not be cut for a one-off cost. This is the very essence for the Federal Government’s distinction of good vs bad debt.

Universities are already facing trying times under the proposed Higher Education Legislation cuts. Removal of the EIF will put a halt on infrastructure investment and will divert further funding from research.

CAPA urges the Federal Government to maintain the EIF and to stop the senseless gutting of the higher education and research sector.

CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:

“At this stage we have a space agency that has no funding attached to it, a National Research Infrastructure Road Map that is still unfunded, and now our Education Investment Fund is being scrapped.

“The Federal Government needs to stop trying to sell us disingenuous plans and needs to get serious about research in Australia. You can’t rip $3.8 billion from university research in the same week that you want to show off our research capacity. If you are going to gut research in Australia, at least stop being a hypocrite about it.”

For comment: CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
M: 0435 047 817