Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Federal budget outcomes for university students and researchers

The government released the 2008-2009 federal budget yesterday. Below are the outcomes for higher education and research.

Education Investment Fund (EIF)
"The Government will invest $5 billion to establish the EIF. The EIF will absorb and extend the Higher Education Endowment Fund, bringing total funding to around $11 billion. The EIF will fund capital expenditure in Australia's higher education institutions" (1).

(a) Higher education
"To help universities upgrade and maintain teaching, research and other student facilities, the Government will provide $500 million by 30 June 2008. The Government will also spend $626 million to reduce the cost of studying maths and science at university and to reduce HECS HELP repayments for science and maths graduates who undertake work in a related field.
The Higher Education Review, due later this year, will shape the next steps in the Education Revolution for universities"

Full fee-paying places have been scrapped and students will only be accepted into university courses based on merit.

(b) Support for research
"To strengthen the link between research and innovation, the Government will boost Australia's research capacity by providing: $326 million over four years to fund four year Future Fellowships valued at up to $140,000 a year for 1,000 of Australia's top mid career researchers. $209 million over four years to double the number of Australian Postgraduate Awards for PhD or Masters by Research students" (1).

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is a non-profit body representing Australian post-graduate students. CAPA is the only organisation that advocates issues concerning post-graduate students at the federal level. Since the reign of the new federal government at the end of last year, CAPA has attempted to negotiate many issues relevant to post-graduate students. A few of these include:

1. Stipend award rates and duration of awards - In 2008, CAPA predicted that the stipend payed to those holding APA/UPA scholarships would fall under the poverty line by the end of the year. CAPA has advocated for a 30% increase to stipends in addition to the extension of the duration of the awards to match the four year candidature allowed for post-graduate PhDs.
2. Abolishing voluntary student unionism (VSU).
3. Exemption of tax on part-time scholarships.

Unfortunately, the above items were dismissed in this year’s budget.


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