After an incredibly successful campaign and rally to convince University’s senior management to raise the HDR stipend, the scholarship rate was lifted by $3000 to $33,000. While we are pleased with this effort and know it will make a big difference to graduate students living on the poverty line, we believe the rate needs to increase further to allow HDRs to support themselves with some dignity.
So while you may not see the big public rallies and witty placards of our last campaign, know that we are lobbying (not so quietly) away in the background, raising awareness of graduate student poverty in every University meeting we attend, presenting the evidence from our research to every Faculty ADGR, and reminding senior managers of the links between poverty, mental health and completion rates.
- Read the initial report on HDR poverty here.
MGA win! 28-day permits for Monash HDR students
In late 2022, the MGA lobbied the University to look into better parking options for HDR students.
What was the issue? Parking issues mostly impacted research students who regularly work overnight at their laboratory/workspace. If they forgot to start a new parking session on their CellOPark app, or if the parking application had technical errors, they would receive a fine.
If they forgot to start a parking session on their CellOPark app, they only received one warning. In the following year they were not given the courtesy of any warnings, which resulted in fines.
What did the MGA do? The CellOPark app was clearly not working for a cohort of HDR students who needed flexibility in order to complete their research and work. Which is why the MGA lobbied for several changes to the CellOPark system, including the option for HDR students to buy a 28-day parking pass that was available to staff members only.
What was the result? In a recent win, Monash University has accepted this request! Monash HDR students can now buy a 28-day parking permit to use in red or blue permit areas.
- Click here to read the letter that our Research Education Officer Sahampath Hettiarachchi sent to Buildings, Property and Campus.
Are you a HDR student with flexible parking requirements? Follow this link below for instructions on how to purchase a 28-day parking permit.
Freeze student debt!
In February 2022, the MGA submitted a report to the Senate Education and Employment Committee Inquiry outlining support for a bill proposed by Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi.
The Bill is called: Education and Other Legislation Amendment (Abolishing Indexation and Raising the Minimum Repayment Income for Education and Training Loans) Bill 2022. It refers to all student debt and training loans.
We encouraged students to make their own submissions to the inquiry to support a bill that would benefit them by freezing existing student debt and raising the minimum repayment income to the median wage.
PTV concession for graduate students
Victoria is the only state in Australia that does not give travel concession fares on public transport to full time graduate students.
The MGA supports graduate students in lobbying for systemic change which will have a direct positive impact on the community. We are working with graduate students at Monash and across the state to campaign for Victorian public transport concession fares for the graduate student cohort.
PTV Campaign Explainer
Victoria is the only state in Australia that does not provide travel concession fares on public transport to full-time graduate students.
To be eligible for public transport travel concessions in other Australian states, the only requirements for graduate students (domestic and international) are that they are:
- enrolled full time; and
- attending on campus.
There is a misconception at a policy level within the Victorian Department of Transport that graduate students are financially secure and not in need of a concession.
In 2015, the Minister for Public Transport stated:
“…that a greater proportion of postgraduate students are working full time and may not require additional financial support. Postgraduate students with low incomes that meet the eligibility criteria for government support through Centrelink can receive a Low Income Health Care Card. This card entitles the postgraduate student to public transport concession fares.”
The State Government continues to hold “…that financial assistance is directed to those most in need.” This is despite the MGA having provided clear evidence to the Government that graduate students are a group desperately in need of financial assistance.
This idea that the majority of graduate students are financially secure needs to be challenged. The MGA is advocating for all full-time on-campus graduate students to be eligible for concession fares, consistent with the rest of Australia.
Currently, graduate students must meet the eligibility criteria for government support through Centrelink to receive a Low Income Health Care Card and in turn, transport concessions.
International students are not eligible to apply for government concessions.
Victoria’s largest services export is international education. The state attracts international graduate students and then refuses to extend the travel concession when every other state supports this cohort by providing travel concessions.
International students are disadvantaged across a spectrum of categories. Their course fees are higher and they often work in casual environments. Many international students are also in debt to their family, who have often made sacrifices to send them overseas to study. International graduate students are a significant cohort in the higher education sector. To deny their financial struggle by excluding them from eligibility for travel concessions is neither supportive or fair.
Side note: Applying for a Health Care Card is also a barrier for full-time domestic students because it is a gruelling and complicated process.
The financial reality for many graduate students is not rosy.
- More than half the graduate cohort limits their attendance to events on and off campus, while more than one in three limit their attendance at academic events on campus, because of the cost of public transport.
- The current RTP (Research Training Program) stipend rate is below the poverty line and is not enough to cover basic living costs.
- The median income for graduate students has remained stagnant since 2006, despite inflation.
- Less than half of international and domestic graduate students feel in control of their finances.
Much work has already been done on this campaign. Here are some of the highlights:
- In 2017 the Fares Fair campaign was launched by the Council of Australian Postgraduate associations (CAPA) and the GraduateStudent Association (GSA-University of Melbourne). Click here to read about the original campaign.
- In 2018, the MGA (then MPA) held a massive two-day event-check out the highlights video here.
- Sam Hibbins, Greens member for Prahran, has raised this issue in Parliament. Here are the responses he received:
Some of our previous successes:
- The introduction of an extensive welfare scheme to provide support to graduate students in financial distress;
- The automatic provision of HDR scholarships to 3.5 years without requiring an application;
- Reinstatement of an 8.30am shuttle bus from Caulfield to Clayton during the out of semester timetable;
- Reinstatement of the 7:10am shuttle bus from Clayton to Peninsula during the semester;
- The development of a guide for graduate students identifying as queer;
- The inclusion of unpaid domestic violence leave in all graduate and undergraduate courses;
- The inclusion of paid domestic violence leave for all HDR scholarship recipients.
To read more about our lobbying efforts to put graduate Students’ Services and Amenities fees back in their own hands, please click on this link.
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA)
CAPA represents the interests of Australia’s 320,000+ graduate students. CAPA’s member organisations include the MGA and 33 other relevant associations, as well as the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA). As the national voice on graduate student issues, CAPA makes representations to the Federal Government, the Opposition party and higher education peak bodies. Click here to find out more about CAPA.
Got some feedback for us?
The MGA is working on a variety of issues on that affect graduate students at Monash. We endeavour to address any systemic issues by lobbying the University for change.
If you would like more information, or you are a Monash graduate student who would like to discuss a current issue with us, contact us here. Your feedback is valuable to us!
Reports & Submissions
Interested to know what the MGA has been up to? Click here to browse through our recent reports and submissions to the University.