Press Release – Research student financial hardship places university research and international reputation at risk  8 April 2020

The Australian Council of Graduate Research Inc (ACGR) welcomes the Commonwealth Government’s economic stimulus and other measures to support the Australian economy. The wage subsidy and other measures  have won broad support but they do not, however, recognize graduate research students, many  of whom rely on casual work to support themselves while undertaking a research degree.  The exclusion of many domestic and international graduate research students from the Commonwealth Government’s economic stimulus schemes means that many of them will face hardship and uncertainty as to whether they will be able to continue with their research degrees. We urge the Government to reconsider its position and also to consider other support programs that might be implemented as proposed by the ACGR  and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.

The ACGR has  particular concerns for international graduate research students. Although suspension of compliance action by the Department of Home Affairs for international students affected by COVID-19 who intermit studies is welcomed, the Government advice that international students who cannot support themselves should return to their home country does not take into account the reality of a situation where many international PhD students are embedded and relied upon in current research project teams, as well as  international travel being severely constrained. While Universities are stepping in with a number of financial assistance schemes, they all have limited capacity to provide support.

ACGR Convenor, Professor Al McEwan emphasised the importance of our graduate researchers: “Now, more than ever, Australia needs its research students. Graduate research education programs are critical to our nation rebuilding both its economy and international linkages as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. Our current graduate researchers are not only key contributors to the nation’s research agenda, helping progress at a time where university staff are struggling with teaching and resourcing challenges, they are also engaging with and supporting industry partners including SMEs as well as maintaining important international linkages and partnerships.”

The Federal Government needs to support both our domestic and international graduate research students who are experiencing personal and financial hardship. Lack of support will seriously jeopardise current research programs, the pipeline of future leaders, and Australia’s relationships with overseas partners and its reputation as an international higher education provider.

The Australian Council of Graduate Research notes the concerns of State Governments and welcomes their actions to provide some support, and urges the Federal Government to work with the States and Universities to develop solutions to this emerging crisis.

Frank Larkins warns: research students seriously impacted by campus closures

In an article in Campus Morning Mail, Frank Larkins  makes it clear that research students (including internationals) are essential to Australia’s research effort and it is essential that government and universities support them now.

Lobbying for Government Support/Hardship Programs

Given the hardships being experienced by students both with and without stipends, the ACGR Executive has developed and endorsed a series of proposals regarding income and other federal support for HDR candidates affected by COVID19.

This document  has been shared with CAPA, Universities Australia and each of the university networks along with a request for them to lobby for these measures wherever they can.

University Responses to Candidature and Scholarship Matters

ACGR has created a Discussion Board to share how universities are responding to changes to candidature and scholarship necessary during the crisis. This is a very helpful resource which we encourage all members to visit and contribute to.

ACGR COVID Seminars – April 20

Session 1 – COVID 19 – Graduate Research challenges and responses

This Zoom webinar explored some of the challenges that are confronting graduate research candidates, supervisors and leaders during the COVID crisis and provided members with the opportunity to share good practice.

Session 2 – Supporting Resilience and Mental Health for HDR candidates and staff 1-2 pm AET

This Zoom workshop explored strategies and tools to support graduate research leaders, supervisors and candidates as we all deal with the short and longer term impacts of our global health emergency. Building on the principles of wellbeing, we shared ideas and good practice that could support resilience and good mental health during these challenging times. Dr Hugh Kearns from ithinkWell also shared some of his tips for Staying Well during Your PhD in this session.

Members can access recordings of both sessions and the powerpoints presented here.

2020 Webinar Series -The New Normal in Graduate Research

As we emerged from the initial emergency response stage of COVID19 and developed sustainable solutions to the research and training challenges we have encountered, it was a great opportunity to reflect on how we have adapted and how this would will lay new foundations for good practice going forward.

Starting this May, ACGR will run a series of short webinars focussing on specific areas where practices are changing and new opportunities emerging.

These free sessions were for ACGR members or their delegates  and followed a similar format to those held earlier with short presentations followed by member engagement and sharing. All sessions were recorded and the presentation components then made available for use by members within their universities for staff or student training purposes.

Virtual Graduate Research Communities Thursday, 14 May 2020 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm (AEST)

Reconfiguring Research Methodologies Thursday 28 May 2020 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm (AEST)

Graduate Research Internships and End-User Engagement – New Normal and New Opportunities Thursday 11 June 2020 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm (AEST)

Awarding a PhD – How Much is Enough? Thursday 25 June 2020 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm (AEST)

Recordings and presentations are available to ACGR members here.

Research block grants support during the coronavirus pandemic

1 May 2020

DESE have released advice that outlines temporary changes to  research block grants support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Full details of the flexibility now available to support students can be downloaded DESE Advice re RTP during COVID.