CAPA carries out its mission through policy, research, and activism, communicating the interests and issues of postgraduate students to higher education stakeholders as well as Federal and State Governments, Opposition parties, and minor parties. We welcome the opportunity to provide our views on the adoption and implementation of the Model Code on Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom as recommended by the Hon Robert French AC in his 2019 Review of Freedom of Speech in Australian Higher Education Providers. As with our previous submissions to the Review and subsequent legislation, we strongly urge the Government to make the following changes:
Recommendation one: That a sector-wide code of conduct, must be compliant with legislation including the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and must not contravene universities’ obligations to provide a safe working environment. We recommend that the entrenched obstacles actually impeding Academic Freedom be fully recognised and addressed. A major threat includes the defunding of higher education and research, leading to a managerial or corporate approach to university operations across Australia. This has shifted the priorities of higher education providers away from educating and developing knowledge and toward competition, self preservation, and casualisation. Based on this, we further recommend:
Recommendation two: That the government restores higher education and research funding that has been cut over the last several years.
Recommendation three: That universities must promote long term employment practices, providing job security for their researchers and supporting them to investigate new, controversial, or uncertain topics.
Recommendation four: That legislation should be enacted to prevent any government interference or politicisation of research, and mandate transparency in federal research funding allocations and awards.
Recommendation five: That policies should be in place to ensure all students (undergraduates and postgraduate, domestic and internationals) continue to pay SSAF and that a minimum of 50% SSAF goes to student associations/unions. The proportion should be allocated to independent student-led associations and should be based on the FTE proportion of students enrolled. Policies should also be implemented to ensure a national standard for annual SSAF reporting for all public Australian Universities.