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MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA condemns Government’s latest attack on research

13 Nov 18

CAPA condemns Government’s latest attack on research

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is deeply disappointed in the news that the Government will slash research funding in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

The cuts to research block grants are the latest assault on scientific inquiry in Australia. Research block grants are in two buckets: the Research Training Program (RTP) that provides stipends to research students, and the Research Support Program which contributes to the cost of conducting research. The Minister has indicated that the cuts will come from a freeze on the Research Support Program.

This announcement comes just weeks after it was revealed that the former Minister for Education vetoed research funding for eleven successful Australian Research Council (ARC) applications in the humanities and social sciences. This was followed by the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, doubling down on his predecessor’s error in judgment by demanding the ARC introduce a national interest test for applicants, which adds no value to the existing application process but may be used to further political interests.

As the peak representative body for postgraduate students, CAPA is concerned that the cuts will impact the working conditions of doctoral students, who form the backbone of Australia’s research efforts – contributing the majority of research-hours performed in universities, and often doing the grunt work on their supervisors’ projects.

With increased awareness in recent years of student poverty and the related mental health risks of doctoral study, more funding – not less – is needed for this group which is increasingly under pressure. Since 2012, the number of RTP stipends for Australian students has remained stagnant, despite the number of commencing research students increasing over this time. At present, almost two-thirds of domestic research students do not have an RTP stipend (and research students are not eligible for any Centrelink study payments). Reducing research block grants ensures that this situation will get worse, not better.

“The Government has become increasingly blatant in their hostility towards universities and research over the past year,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.

“It seems the Government does not want research to be conducted in Australia – unless that research aligns with their agenda.”

For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993