Below is a piece run in the Campus Review yesterday, reprinted here with their permission.
02 Aug 10 by John Ross
There’s more danger than hope in this month’s election, according to the peak postgraduate body.
There are two big dangers on August 21, according to the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA).
One is that Labor could win the election, and continue to implement its reforms at a snail’s pace.
The other is that the Coalition could win and slow the reform process even further – maybe stop it completely.
CAPA’s assessment follows its review of the outcomes of 20 higher education and research-related inquiries conducted since early 2008.
These reviews yielded over 300 findings relevant to postgraduate students, CAPA found, with the government so far responding to less than a third of them.
National president Tammi Jonas stressed that CAPA didn’t back any particular party. But she said the best-case scenario for CAPA was a returned ALP government with the Greens holding balance of power “to help push for faster reform”.
“If they hold the balance we will see the student services and amenities fee finally go through, for example. That would be extremely welcome to students across the country.”
Jonas said a Labor government with Greens influence would also be more likely to commit funding to research workforce strategy recommendations, and to extend the duration of Australian Postgraduate Awards (APAs) to four years.
“It seems that the two major parties are unwilling to fund things,” Jonas said.
“We’re hopeful to see enough change in government to get the funding behind the will.”
Jonas said CAPA’s worst-case scenario would be a Liberal win with the Coalition holding the balance of power.
“Then not only wouldn’t we see the student services and amenities fee go through. We’d see a complete dismissal of the importance of higher education in Australia as we saw under Howard – an anti-intellectual climate that doesn’t value a knowledge economy.”
She said the “middle ground” scenario would be “a government that looks very similar to what we have now”.
Such a government would “continue at a pretty slow pace, but at least with some goodwill to start to improve what has been in decline for 15 years”.
CAPA said postgraduates had won some major reforms to scholarships and income support in 2008 and 2009, with the number of APAs doubling between 2008 and 2012 while they attracted better indexation and a 10 per cent increase in payment rates.
All masters by coursework students will also gain access to income support by 2012.
But CAPA said unfinished business for postgraduates included further reforms to scholarships and income support, implementation of a national research workforce strategy, new quality arrangements, evolution of the “third phase” of international education and research, and better student services and advocacy.