- Minister Christopher Pyne MP, The Australian ParliamentMinister for Education
Reverse Research Training Scheme Cuts, PhD and Masters by Research Fees
Higher Degree by Research students are being asked to foot the bill for their Masters and PhD qualifications as a result of the 2014-15 Federal Budget, with the Research Training Scheme to be slashed by $173.7 million and RTS places added to the HELP scheme from 1 January 2016.
The Department of Education has confirmed that from 1 January 2016, Universities will be able to charge all students on RTS places fees of up to $3,900 per year - regardless of when they enrolled. If you'll be studying in 2016, you could be charged fees.
Masters by Research and PhD students will contribute up to $3,900 per year toward their studies, in an unprecedented change to Australia’s research funding that has left postgraduates totally blind-sided.
Raising students' contribution to the Research Training Scheme from $0 to up to $3,900 is one of the most significant proportional changes in the 2014-15 Federal Budget. Australia's 60,000 PhD and Masters by Research students contribute to our knowledge economy, industry, research sector and as the educators of our University students. They are our research leaders of the future.
- Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science
- Minister for Education
Minister Christopher Pyne MP, The Australian Parliament
Dear Minister Christopher Pyne MP and Members of the Australian Parliament,
On behalf of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and our postgraduate constituency at Universities across Australia, I write to you to address the proposed changes to the Research Training Scheme.
The 2014-15 Federal Budget proposes to cut funding to the Research Training Scheme by $173.7 million dollars, with the Government to allow Universities to charge annual fees on PhDs and Masters by Research of up to $3,900 to compensate for this loss.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has received written confirmation from the Department of Education that these fees will be able to be charged to ALL enrolled Higher Degree by Research students – not just those who enrol after 1 January 2016.
This is contradictory to many reports that the only changes to impact on current students will be the interest rates on HELP loans of up to 6 per cent. This change, too, will have a strong impact on our Higher Degree by Research student population. Future academic leaders who choose to price themselves out of HELP repayments for four years or more while they undertake a PhD, will see their existing debts skyrocket when subject to 6 per cent interest.
Whilst these changes have received less coverage than other Budget proposals relating to the higher education sector, they are of great concern to Australia’s over 60,000 Higher Degree by Research students and, we believe, will have a significant impact on Australia’s future research workforce.
Already the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has received strong feedback from our members that these Budget proposals will impact on their decision-making around undertaking research studies in Australia. A number of future students have indicated on our website and social media that they will now choose to undertake their research studies in Europe; others have indicated an unwillingness to accept existing offers to commence research studies in 2015 until such time as their prospective University has indicated whether they will charge fees to domestic Research Training Scheme students.
Over 2,500 people have signed our online petition against the changes to the Research Training Scheme, and our member organisations will be orchestrating a nation-wide campaign to highlight the impact that these changes will have to postgraduate students as we enter Semester Two.
Introducing fees on domestic PhDs sends a terrible message around the value the Government places on our research workforce and our future leaders in science, academia, industry and innovation. Already, our Higher Degree by Research students make an enormous unpaid contribution to our research output and our national knowledge base. It seems especially contradictory to be promising funding for medical research whilst simultaneously proposing to charge Higher Degree by Research students in the medical sciences – our future leading medical researchers - higher fees than their peers in other research fields.
Overall, we are concerned that these changes to the Research Training Scheme and to interest rates on HELP debt will create a barrier to participation which may lead to a “brain drain” to our overseas competitors and may even price some of our best and brightest out of entering research careers altogether.
It is critical that the Australian Parliament recognises the important role that our Higher Degree by Research students have to play in our future national interest. We ask you to reverse the changes to the Research Training Scheme.
President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations
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