The Federal Government is currently undertaking a review of the Research Workforce Training system. This includes the Research Training Scheme (RTS) that funds Universities for postgraduate research students. It also includes the Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA) scholarships scheme.
Full details of the working parties and the review taking place can be found at relevant Government department website.
I have made a brief submission to this enquiry and wanted to post my thoughts here. I believe there are some problems with the scheme affecting students with ill health and consequently affecting Universities as well. Copies of everyone’s submissions will be going onto the previous website during January 2012.
Consultation Question 4:
What is the best way of ensuring that PhD supervisors provide high quality support to students? Should requirements be nationally consistent? (page 17)
I submit the standards should be national uniform standards. Students living in a State such as Tasmania who only have access to one University should not be disadvantaged. Students on the mainland can choose their University and attend the one with the best training and facilities. Enforcing uniform national standards would ensure that Tasmanian students were provided with an equal opportunity.
Consultation Question 9:
Should the rules associated with Australian Postgraduate Award scholarships be amended or increased in flexibility? If so, in what ways? (page 22)
I believe the rules concerning APAs require amendment. Some 11 years ago I held an APA for more than 6 months but had to terminate my APA and studies due to severe ill health. Now that I am better and fit to undertake PhD studies again I am ineligible for another APA. I believe some discretion needs introducing into the scheme. In exceptional circumstances you should be able to apply for, and be granted, another APA. Medical evidence should be required but if there are genuine exceptional circumstances such as in my case then the University should have discretion to grant another APA.
General Comment regarding the RTS
I believe that the RTS requires amendment to not penalise Universities if a student is forced to withdraw and not complete their PhD due to ill health. I was forced to terminate my PhD studies some years ago due to ill health and this meant the University concerned received a non completion result for my research studies. This has had the effect that some Universities have been reluctant to admit me again now, when my health is better, because of a fear that I might get ill again and prove detrimental to their completion rates.
If someone is forced to terminate their studies due to severe ill health then it should not count as a failure to complete the research for the purposes of RTS funding formula. Essentially the slate should be wiped clean and it should be as if the student had never enrolled.
Obviously independent medical evidence may be required to ensure the exemption wasn’t being abused by those failing to complete but it would mean that Universities were more willing to give me a second chance as they wouldn’t be penalised if I fail to complete again on medical grounds.
What do you think of my points? Have you been adversely effected by the current APA rules or has the RTS funding regime effected a University being willing to enrol you? I believe more discretion and flexibility need introducing into the system and hope this happens soon.