Each month, in our ‘Behind the Scenes’ series, we give you a look at our day-to-day workings and the decision making that goes into our advocacy, support programs, workshops and events. This month, Ash McIntyre and Barrie Shannon discuss the newly released Federal Budget, and what it means for postgraduate students.
May 8 saw the release of the 2018 Federal Budget, the last to be released before the next Federal Election. Unfortunately, if you’re a postgraduate student living and studying in Australia, there is little for you to get excited about.
For the last five years or so, the Higher Education sector has been targeted by the Government as a potential area from which extra money can be squeezed. Universities around Australia have had to prepare and brace for reductions in funding or funding availability, to the obvious detriment of student services, staffing and opportunities. These legacy cuts, while very contentious within the Parliament, are still looming. The 2018 Budget does, however, commit funding to the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap. This plan, led by Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel AO, will hopefully see specific tailored support for developing research in a range of fields including STEM, digital sciences, environmental sciences, humanities and social sciences, and more.
We would like to see more Government support for regional universities such as the University of Newcastle, so that they can provide more funding and services for postgraduate students on- and off-campus. We also need specifically allocated Federal funding for postgraduate students, especially in the form of income support for students and families, which is desperately needed, as well as nurturing new fields and industries for research higher degree graduates to enter into.
Natasha Abrahams, the President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) had the following to say: “Postgraduate students are important contributors to our nation’s research output and will become even more important in the future as we require a highly skilled workforce. It is disheartening that postgraduate students have once again been left out of the national agenda.” We agree with Natasha here – our postgraduate researchers contribute a significant amount of Australia’s net research output, and it’s past time for our work to be recognised and valued in real terms.
You can read CAPA’s full media release here.
What can you do? With the SSAF Survey coming up, one of the best things you can do is to exercise your student voice, and complete the survey. Seriously consider the things you value most about your student experience, and what your fees should be designated towards to improve that experience. As funding is cut, SSAF allocations also dwindle, and it is paramount that we as students continue to speak up. The SSAF survey determines how much money goes towards student services, including the student associations, student media, campus developments, etc.
Furthermore, with student representational restructure on the horizon, your active input into voicing the unique postgraduate student experience and requirements is also important. NUPSA has been advocating for supervisor training, more faculties for online students to engage with the rest of the student cohort, put forward increased teaching and industry engagement opportunities for postgraduate students, and breastfeeding facilities on campus.
What would you like to see?