Campaigns and submissions

SUPRA makes a number of submissions both internally to the University and to government reviews to make sure that postgraduate student interests are consistently high on the agenda of the government and the University.

December 2023: Sydney Uni international students gain more support and a new governance model

The Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) is pleased to report significant progress in advocating for international students at the University of Sydney. This follows a comprehensive roundtable discussion during the University’s centenary celebrations of international student education. The University, in agreement with SUPRA and student organizations, has committed to developing a roadmap aligned with its 2023 strategy and establishing a formal governance model for international student support. 

Context of the roundtable discussion

2023 marks a milestone year, celebrating both the 100+ years of the first known international student at the University and the return of international students onshore post-pandemic. In collaboration with student organizations and coordinated by Student Life, SUPRA led a series of activities aimed at fostering social connections and recognising the valuable contributions of international students.

The roundtable discussion, a student-initiated concept, united student representatives and University leaders, facilitating a deep dive into the current needs and experiences of international students. This forum was an opportunity to voice concerns and provide insights directly from the international student community.

Key discussion themes and insights

The discussion revolved around four primary themes: Learning and Academic Experience, Governance and Institutional Model, Employability and Career Advancement, and Living in Sydney and Wellbeing. Key insights included:

  • Learning and Academic Experience: Students expressed the need for consistent pre-arrival and onboarding processes, better faculty support, and more regular academic touchpoints.
  • Governance and Institutional Model: There was a call for a strategic plan for international student support, advocating for a governance model that addresses visa arrangements, advocacy, and employability. 
  • Employability and Career Advancement: Students highlighted the necessity for the University to build relationships with international employers and to integrate internships into international student programs.
  • Living in Sydney, Wellbeing, and Support: The need for multi-language, peer-to-peer support information, clearer healthcare policies, better accommodation guidance, and more scholarships was emphasized.

Proposed key actions and commitments

In response to these discussions, the following actions have been proposed:

  • Establishment of a formal governance model for international student support: a proposed subcommittee under the UE-Education Committee is currently under development.
  • A student-staff advisory program will be established to develop a roadmap in coordination with Student Life, aligning with the University’s 2032 strategy.

A unified effort for a brighter future

In 2024 SUPRA is leading student representatives in ongoing consultations with Student Life to establish the new subcommittee and to ensure quick wins such as improving quality of information provided to Sydney Future Students with respect to postgraduate pathways at university, improving orientation and onboarding experiences and early information to new students on accommodation options and their residential tenancy rights and access to support. Importantly, SUPRA proposes that democratically elected student representatives who are chosen to sit on the subcommittee be remunerated for their time and quality participation.

‘We are grateful for the support of the Pro Vice Chancellor of Student Life, Prof. Susana Scarparo, for her prompt response in sponsoring the Subcommittee relevant to international students, positioning it within the Education sector. This ensures that international students’ concerns about their learning experience receive direct attention from the faculties,’ said SUPRA President Weihong Liang.

Download this statement as a Word document [342 KB].
Download this statement as a PDF [154 KB].

December 2023: SUPRA President addresses student housing crisis at 33rd ISANA Conference

On Wednesday 6 to Friday 8 December 2023 SUPRA’s President, Weihong Liang, attended the 33rd ISANA Conference, where he addressed a plenary session on the topic Accommodation: Who Is Responsible?

Addressing the Student Accommodation Crisis: A Call for University Responsibility and Action

Good morning, everyone. My name is Weihong, and it’s a pleasure to be here today as the President of the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA), and as an international student myself.

At SUPRA, we represent a diverse group of over 33,000 postgraduate students at the University of Sydney. Accommodation issues this year rank as our top concern in casework.

Today, I speak from the perspective of a student at a large urban university, a viewpoint that may differ from those at rural universities.

Student accommodation is crucial; it’s more than just a place to live. It’s a vital part of campus life that can either enhance or negatively impact the entire study experience.

Let me share a story about a student from China I met at the SUPRA office. He paid a $6000 deposit for a room he found online before arriving in Sydney, only to discover it was a scam. This situation forced him to stay in a hotel for a month while looking for new rental accommodation. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have managed in his position.

In discussions about this case, experienced individuals often advise: ‘Inspect the room before paying any deposit,’ ‘Choose a good agent,’ or ‘Consider university housing.’ SUPRA shares these tips with students, aiming to help them use NSW regulations and policies effectively to safeguard their rights.

However, as an international student, I can attest that in 2023, finding accommodation is incredibly challenging due to the shortage of available rooms and the rising number of students and other tenants.

A student introduced me to a social media group where landlords encourage bidding for rentals, favoring those who offer higher amounts. I saw a landlord’s post prioritizing tenants ready to pay a year’s rent upfront. Recently, my friend, signed a lease for half a year’s rent with a substantial deposit. Shockingly, just two days before moving in, the landlord canceled the contract and relisted the property at a higher rate, increasing it from $650 to $750.

This is the reality of today’s market. Many more new students than previously experienced and continue to experience these struggles to find accommodation. Our focus at SUPRA before COVID was to educate students on tenancy laws and their rights, and to avoid scams. But now, I feel somewhat helpless about what more we can do. Students are aware of the risks of unfair treatment but have no choice but to accept these conditions.

My frustration stems from witnessing the deterioration in the conditions faced by international students in recent years. Why is this happening, despite our ongoing discussions and efforts?

I believe the core issue is the lack of clear responsibility. Who is responsible for addressing student accommodation issues? This responsibility currently falls on the students themselves. However, in many parts of the world, universities take on this responsibility. In China, for example, the number of students a university can admit is based on its student accommodation capacity. Many Chinese universities have high-rise student apartments, typically with four students sharing a room, managed by professional residential assistant teams. In some North American schools, particularly for international students, first-semester students must reside in student accommodation, usually in 2-3 person shared rooms. This model is standard practice.

By constructing sufficient, land-efficient, high-rise, modern student accommodation, primarily designed for 2-3 people sharing a room, we can solve this problem. This approach is proven to be effective and is a practice adopted worldwide. Why should Sydney be an exception? Relying on private housing as an alternative to affordable student accommodation is not feasible. No city or economy can accommodate the demand for tens of thousands of single rooms. I know students expressed a preference for single rooms, but most are also willing to accept shared rooms in university-operated student accommodation. These can provide more than just accommodation; they offer a sense of community, a home away from home.

University owned student accommodation are more than just living spaces; they form the heart of a student community. When most students live separately, this community bond weakens. Despite universities investing heavily in community and marketing initiatives to foster a sense of belonging in recent years, what students really need are places where they can live and eat together, maybe even study together after classes, and truly feel a sense of belonging.

The absence of affordable university-owned accommodation has already led to a growing financial gap between wealthier students and those with fewer resources, which challenges the fundamental values of Australia. As it stands, only students with substantial financial means can afford accommodation near our campuses. Such a disparity creates an unequal academic environment. I am convinced that public universities must commit to increasing affordable and  accessible accommodation and support for all students.

The approach of Australian universities in pushing students towards a commercial rental market is both rare and irresponsible, representing a failure in their duty of care. We must acknowledge the universities’ responsibility in this matter and strive to find a solution.

Thank you

Weihong Liang
President of SUPRA

December 2023 SUPRA’s open letter about 485 visas

The Hon Clare O’Neil MP, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Cyber Security
The Hon Andrew Giles MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs

Urgent Call for Reconsideration of Changes to the Temporary Graduate Visa Policy 

Dear ministers,

Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA), calls for urgent reconsideration of proposed reforms to the Temporary Graduate Visa (TGV) or 485 visa, announced by the Federal Government.

While welcoming many of the reforms which are part of the government’s new Migration Strategy, SUPRA opposes the reduction of the age limit for the TGV. Education is a lifelong journey, unconstrained by age. The purported benefit of the reduction in the age limit for TGV applicants is not evidence-based and undermines the principles of inclusive education, equal opportunity, and innovation. Many early career professionals in Australia are already in their 30s and many graduates on a TGV do not want to apply for permanent residency so a cap of 35 years for applicants seems arbitrary and discriminatory.

An age cap of 35 years will disproportionately impact Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students. This policy will create uncertainty and potential displacement for mature students, particularly those with research skills who chose Australia for their doctoral and postdoctoral pursuits. The proposed cap risks loss of seasoned research talent and is unfair to individuals who embark on PhDs in their 30s, not uncommon, only to now be ineligible for a TGV on completion of their degrees. This is a direct blow to the vibrancy and diversity of Australia’s research community.

Finally, SUPRA calls on the government to adopt a grandfathering approach to the implementation of these changes. Any reforms to the TGV should be applied prospectively, not retrospectively thereby impacting current student visa holders. Students who commenced their studies under the current policy should not be subjected to these sudden and drastic changes.

We strongly urge the authorities to reconsider these changes, recognizing the detrimental impact they will have on the international student community and Australia’s standing as a leading destination for higher education and research.

Weihong Liang
SUPRA President

Download this letter as a Word document [14KB].

October 2023 Demanding travel concessions for all students

In NSW, international students and part-time students are excluded from the transport concession scheme. These students are forced to pay full fair for their transport – double what domestic, full-time students pay.
Demand equal concessions for all students – sign the petition now!

SUPRA has been fighting for equal transport concessions for years, but the NSW government continues to exclude international and part-time students from any form of discounted travel. Here’s a history of some of the key moments of the campaign:

  • In 2006, a tribunal found that international students were being discriminated against by NSW transport. SUPRA took the issue to the Equal Opportunity Division of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, who found that excluding international students from the transport concession scheme was in breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act.
  • The NSW government responded by changing the Transport Administration Act (1988), so that it can avoid complying with the Anti-Discrimination Act (1977).
  • SUPRA is now advocating that the Anti-Discrimination Act be strengthened to ensure that all NSW legislation must comply with it. We recently lodged a submission to the NSW Law Commission’s review of the Anti-Discrimination Act (1977). Hopefully, this submission, along with our petition to the NSW Parliament, will pave the way for all students to access travel concessions.

International students and part-time students are still paying double, despite soaring costs of living, but the NSW government doesn’t care.

Sign the petition now.

Read our full submission to the NSW Law Commission’s review of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

September 2023 Open letter on international student levy proposed in the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report

Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) is the voice for around 30 000 postgraduate students at the University of Sydney and is opposed to the international student levy proposed in the recent Australian Universities Accord Interim Report.

SUPRA asserts that any additional financial burden on international students will erode their well- being and jeopardizes Australia’s reputation as a fair global hub for international education.

International students enrich our academic communities with diverse perspectives, cultures, and talents. They are integral to the vibrant tapestry of our universities and communities. It is our responsibility to ensure that their experiences are marked by inclusivity, support, and fairness.

The proposed levy, irrespective of its form or mechanism, places an additional financial strain on international students who are already facing substantial financial pressures. Research has shown that many international students grapple with the huge costs of living and housing in Australia, with many experiencing housing precarity and vulnerability to homelessness. Imposing an extra financial burden, directly or indirectly, through this levy will deter talented and ambitious students from choosing Australia as their educational destination.

At SUPRA, we firmly believe in fostering a sense of belonging for all students, including international students. If a levy is implemented, and we expect this to be imposed on students, the unfortunate perception of international students as mere “cash cows” will prevail, making them feel undervalued and disregarded as individuals with lives and dreams for their futures.

Moreover, such a levy would have far-reaching consequences beyond Australia. It will certainly negatively impact Australia’s reputation among international students, their families, and communities. As countries such as the UK, Canada, and the USA enhance their international education offerings and become more competitive, now is not the time to add anxiety or burden on international students; instead, it is the time to support and embrace those who choose to study here and may want to call Australia home.

SUPRA urges all stakeholders to reject the proposed international student levy. It is imperative that we prioritize the well-being and experiences of international students, and foster an environment where all students feel welcomed, valued, and belong.

Yinfeng (Benny) Shen
Education Officer

Download statement [PDF 70KB].

September 2023 SUPRA’s response to the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report

The Australian Government initiated the Australian Universities Accord over 2022–23 to investigate opportunities for improving the higher education system in Australia.

The Accord panel is considering broad topics including:

  • improving the tertiary education rates for First Nations Peoples
  • dismantling the ineffective and detrimental parts of the Jobs Ready Graduates Package (in particular the 50% completion rule that was introduced by the former Liberal government)
  • increasing the PhD stipend rate for PhD students
  • increasing the participation rates for disabled students/students with disability
  • financially supporting students on placement and Work Integrated Learning.

SUPRA provided an initial submission to the Universities Accord in April 2023 and we have submitted a response to the Interim Report on 1 September 2023.

In our response to the Interim Report we:

  • Supported demand-driven funding being extended to all First Nations students enrolling in university, but also argued that the education system needs radical reform to ensure First Nations students are supported across their education journey – from pre-school to university. This reform should be led by First Nations Peoples.
  • Rejected the international student levy, arguing that international students are already under huge financial pressure. Australia needs to be embracing international students, beyond their financial contributions to the Australian economy, as students who chose to live, study and work in Australia.
  • Pushed for SSAF funding to be controlled and shaped by student-led organisations, who, as representatives of the student body, have fundamental insight into the needs of students.
  • Argued for more Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) for more postgraduate students in more postgraduate courses; increased HDR stipends for more HDR students; and genuine cost of living support for students on placements.
  • Emphasised the need to provide genuine support for disabled students/students with disability through providing hybrid options for all students and additional time to complete for disabled HDR students.
  • Called on the government to invest additional resources to reduce sexual assault and harassment on campus, and to ensure sufficient data is gathered regularly through the National Student Safety Survey.
  • Highlighted how purpose-built student accommodation in NSW is not appropriately regulated, leaving students extremely vulnerable to unfair charges and unsafe living conditions.

The final report will be submitted to the Minister for Education in December 2023. We are looking forward to positive changes to the higher education system that improve the lives of students.

Read our full response to the Interim Report here [PDF 344KB].

August 2023 SUPRA’s submission to Improving NSW Rental Laws consultation paper

SUPRA’s casework team made a submission to the NSW government’s consultation: Improving NSW Rental Laws.

The consultation specifically asked for submissions regarding:

  • reasons a landlord can terminate a lease – removing ‘no grounds’ evictions
  • how to make it easier for renters to keep pets
  • protecting personal information held by real estate agents
  • making it easier to transfer rental bonds from one property to another
  • other ways to make the system fairer.

In our submission, we advocated for:

  • an end to no-fault termination for all types of tenancies
  • more regulation to protect tenants from rent hikes
  • more protections for tenants with pets.

You can read our full submission here [PDF 125KB].

August 2023 SUPRA condemns Universities Australia dropping sexual violence prevention campaign

Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) joins the many voices speaking out against Universities Australia dropping their commitment to $1.5 million in funding into sexual consent campaigning across Australian universities. Instead, Universities Australia chief executive, Catriona Jackson, has proposed all 39 universities hold a sector-wide ‘Respect at Uni’ week at the beginning of next year.

This decision is an appalling move that clearly lacks any understanding of the prevalent and complex issues of ongoing sexual violence on campuses. SUPRA joins End Rape on Campus, Fair Agenda, and the National Union of Students to call for an independent body led by experts in sexual violence to provide best practice guidelines to universities across Australia. We write this call to action as both a group of allies and those with lived experience of sexual violence and harassment on campus.

At the University of Sydney, we can see the efforts the University has implemented around the ongoing issues of sexual assault, harassment, and harm on and off campus by students towards other students. The University has funded and established the Safer Communities Office, staffed by specialists to provide an immediate response to any student experiencing any type of sexual misconduct, domestic violence, bullying and harassment, and issues relating to modern slavery. We also note Safer Communities has a Prevention Education Specialist role, who carries out training to residential colleges and HDR supervisors. We applaud the work of these specialists in both responding to and preventing sexual violence on campus.

However, there are still many student cohorts that are at high risk of sexual violence. As the postgraduate student union, we want to address the high risk HDR students continue to face. Female HDR students in male-dominated fields are at a particularly heightened risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment due to the large power imbalance between supervisors and students. This risk is compounded if students are disabled, First Nations, international students, or from CALD backgrounds. Of course, any student can experience sexual violence no matter their background, and it is never acceptable.

A university can have all the reporting structures in place, but until the university addresses the more complex issues of structural power imbalances, non-inclusive research training culture, and the very real threat to a candidate’s research degree and career if an HDR student reports improper behaviour, we won’t see effective, preventative change.

SUPRA is calling on the University to mandate supervisory training and empower HDR students to know their rights and responsibilities regarding appropriate sexual conduct. They must ensure there are confidential and regular avenues for HDR students to report harmful behaviours, without fear of repercussions. The University must also establish clear outcomes for such reports. Too many times a student goes through a reporting process, only for no action to be taken, despite the immense stress and often retraumatising effects of the complaints process.

We ask the University to engage in a collaborative process with students. We ask that student voices with lived experience be able to provide their expertise and guidance into what best practice looks like for students.

If you are a student in need of support, or know a student who needs support, the following services are available:

1800 Respect National Helpline
1800 737 732

Full Stop Australia
1800 385 578

Safer Communities Office (Usyd)
+61 2 8627 6808

02 9351 3715

RPA Hospital Sexual Assault Service
02 9515 9040

Victims Service Access Line
1800 633 063

Men’s Referral Service
1300 766 491

May 2023 Open letter from SUPRA on Usyd campus food and drink

Food and drink are not just consumables, they are the pillars of nourishment that can dictate a students’ ability to achieve their very best while at the University of Sydney. Currently most of the food and drink services provided at Usyd are provided by the USU. They do an admirable job, but providing food and drink that meets the needs of a diverse student cohort is an extremely difficult task. And we are hearing regularly from students that they are not satisfied with what they have access to on campus.

Many students contact SUPRA telling us about the lack of accessible, good quality and culturally appropriate food on University of Sydney campuses. In the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) Survey 2022 which surveyed all students across all campuses, food and drink services were in the top 2 ranked priority areas for students. In this survey students also noted the need for improvement around the provision of food and drinks on campus including the need to make food and drink cheaper, healthier, with greater variety of culturally appropriate options, and catering to a wider variety of dietary needs. Students also noted that there needs to be greater focus on the food and drink provided at satellite campuses.

After the survey was released, SUPRA highlighted this issue to the University and called for change through the Student Consultative Committee and the Senate Student Panel, as well as with various other stakeholders, in an attempt to address the matter. There is a consensus among students and staff that urgent improvements are needed. However, there is still a lack of direction or a mechanism to direct this issue at the University. Given that the University community consists of more than 70 000 people, it is challenging to achieve significant progress on this issue without a clear and permanent institutional structure to consult, plan, organise and enact changes.

SUPRA is calling on the University to form a Food and Drink Committee to actively plan and guide improvements to the food and drinks provided on campus. This Committee should include representatives from the USU, student organisations like SUPRA and the SRC, the University Executive, and from other relevant areas such as infrastructure. This Committee should lead the University’s move towards better, cheaper and more accessible food and drink on campus.

May 2023 SUPRA statement on proposed HDR Fellowships

SUPRA understands that the NTEU and the University are currently negotiating a proposal for HDR Fellowships, on behalf of HDR students at the University of Sydney. While SUPRA does not have access to the specific clauses of the fellowships, we understand that fellowships would be granted for 3-year periods, with students expected to teach a specific number of tutorials per semester. SUPRA is, in principle, supportive of 3-year fellowships that provide job security and teaching experience for HDR students.

However, we are concerned that HDR students will be left worse off in these fellowships than in the current system of casual contracts. We want to see the NTEU, on behalf of HDR students, negotiating for appropriate pay for hours workedno restrictions on additional contracts with USyd, and a commitment to continued support of equitable and diverse stipends.

1. Appropriate pay for hours worked

The proposed PhD fellowships currently under negotiation need to ensure that HDR students are paid appropriately for hours worked. HDR students at the University of Sydney have a history of being underpaid for their work, and these fellowships could continue this concerning state.

We strongly advise PhD fellowships to include a reasonable amount of required tutorials. This may have some variation per faculty, but at a rate of 0.2 FTE (that is one paid day per week) there should be a maximum requirement of three one-hour tutorials per week during semesters.

This provides sufficient remuneration for included tutorial preparation, the tutorial itself, marking and the provision of substantive feedback, communication with students outside of class hours and other administrative tasks. All staff should be paid for all hours worked, and this applies to PhD students.

We recommend fellowships require no more than three one-hour tutorials per week per semester.

2. No restrictions on additional work at the University

SUPRA understands that there is a proposed limit on fellows accepting additional contracts at the University. Specifically, that any HDR student on a fellowship would be unable to take up additional work tied to the University.

SUPRA does not believe there should be any restrictions on how an HDR student balances their paid work hours with their HDR studies. As the proposed PhD fellowships do not provide living wages, HDR students not in receipt of other stipends will need to access additional employment.

PhD fellows should be able to work additional paid hours at the University, in discussion with their supervisors and considering the needs of their HDR progression.

We recommend that any limitations on fellows to take up non-fellowship paid contracts with the University of Sydney be removed from the conditions of the fellowship.

3. Ensure fellowships are not used to replace or supplant PhD stipends

SUPRA has concerns that the fellowships, as they stand, will be used to replace more substantive HDR stipends and contracts. This is concerning because stipends are essential economic support for PhD candidates to engage in higher degree research. Further, fellowships alone are significantly below the poverty line and should not be a sole source of income.

We recommend the University commit to retaining a range of diverse and equitable stipend options to support PhD students. 


Weihong Liang
SUPRA President

April 2023 SUPRA’s submission to the Australian Universities Accord

The Department of Education (DoE) is conducting a broad scale review of the tertiary education system in Australia. As part of this Universities Accord, the DoE asked for submissions about the university system and ways to improve how students experience their education. SUPRA composed a lengthy response, with the notable assistance of SUPRA’s equity officers.

Part of our response focused on ways to increase access to university for First Nations Peoples, as well as how to ensure First Nations Peoples are fully supported and able to remain at university.

We also included a discussion of disabled students/people with disabilities and ways to ensure that they are fully embraced by the university system and advocated for the recommendations made in the Disability and Higher Education in Australia 2022 [PDF 2MB] report.

SUPRA also emphasised HDR students as being central to the tertiary education system, and the need to appropriately support HDR students and their research through the provision of appropriate structural, educational and material support throughout a students’ candidatures.

Our submission also emphasised the issues with the migration system and its effects on international students, and tenancy and the housing crisis. And we strongly argued against the punitive aspects of the Jobs Ready Graduates Package which in many cases prevents students who fail to make appropriate progress from being able to continue with their university education. This process disproportionately affects low-income earners and other students with intersectional experience and identities.

Read our full submission here [PDF 259KB].

April 2023 SUPRA advocates for students affected by changes to the CSCSE requirements

On 28 January 2023, the Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) announced a new policy regarding degree verification which required all students to return to on-campus learning for semester 1, unless there was specific documented reasons they were unable to return. This change affected thousands of students who had very little time to return to Australia and to find housing to support them while they studied.

SUPRA was concerned about these changes, and how it would affect students unable to return to campus. This concern was reflected in the many students that contacted us for assistance.

SUPRA immediately contacted the University to outline the significance of the situation and to request an active role in shaping the University’s response to the CSCSE changes.

In the following days, with the help of our fellow students, SUPRA representatives were active in social media groups, collecting thousands of student opinions and experiences. We used this information to inform our discussions with the University on how to achieve the best outcome for affected students. We also conducted online Q&A sessions to provide support to students while we worked with the University.

On 1 February, SUPRA had an initial meeting with the University to clarify student needs and concerns, to request specific support for students, and to outline what students needed in their University letter of support they would use in their CSCSE application.

On 3 February, the University updated its webpage, clarifying that international students who arrived this semester could still maintain their remote enrolment option, and promising to issue a letter students could use in their CSCSE applications.

On 13 February, SUPRA representatives spoke at the University of Sydney Education Committee, reiterating the difficulties encountered by students in degree verification with CSCSE and requesting that SUPRA be consulted regarding the contents of the letter from the University.

In the following weeks, SUPRA continued to voice student concerns to the University and to discuss what students needed during this time.

On 29 March, the University sent SUPRA the draft of the letter students would use in their CSCSE applications. We provided prompt feedback and direction as to how to improve the letter, such that students’ needs were centred. The University took on board these suggestions, and the final version of the letter incorporated various changes, in particular, it included reference to students’ difficulties with finding accommodation and housing during the current rental crisis. We believe this has made the letter a stronger supporting document.

We sincerely thank all the students for sharing their needs and experiences, it was central to our ability to advocate for students’ needs.

February 2023 Submission to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade – Australia’s tourism and international education sectors

SUPRA believes that the international education sector fails to appropriately support international students studying in Australia. We lodged a submission to the JCFADT advocating for changes to Australian’s migration system to make the system more streamlined and easier for students to access after study.

We also emphasised how the international education sector fails international student renters, who face the predatory, unethical and in some instances illegal actions of landlords without sufficient government support or recourse. We also argued that the international education sector needs to take clear and immediate action on the racism faced by international students within Australia.

Read our full submission to the JCFADT here [PDF 233KB].

February 2023 Submission to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee – Education and Other Legislation Amendment (Abolishing Indexation and Raising the Minimum Repayment Income for Education and Training Loans) Bill 2022

Postgraduate students are facing significant financial struggles. The cost of living and the financial pressures currently faced by postgraduate students is substantial. We are in a housing crisis with excessive rents and rent increases, and a lack of rental properties, while many home-owners are in significant mortgage stress.  Many of our students are struggling to afford basic supplies and are considering leaving university due to these financial pressures. 

SUPRA lodged a submission in support of the bill proposed by The Greens to abolish indexation and lower the minimum repayment threshold for education and training loans (such as HELP debts). If this bill were to pass it would reduce some of the financial pressures faced by domestic students.

Read our full submission in support of the bill here [PDF 113KB].

December 2022 SUPRA submission to the Department of Home Affairs review – A Migration System for Australia’s Future

SUPRA believes that the current migration system needs reforms to best support international students and Australia’s economic needs. We lodged a submission to the Department of Home Affairs review – A Migration System for Australia’s Future – regarding changes we want to see to Australia’s migration system.

We advocated for increased post-study work visas and the need to create a fast-track permanent residency stream for high-performing graduates. We also argued for further work to be done to reduce the exploitation of student visa holders and to support international students’ mental and physical health by ensuring healthcare is accessible and affordable.

Read our full submission here [PDF 242KB].

November 2020 Your Learning Centre is under threat: our statement on redundancies

SUPRA opposes staff cuts and redundancies at the Learning Centre.

The University’s Draft Change Proposal – Centre for English Teaching and Academic Enrichment proposes to create a new Learning Hub combining the Learning Centre with other services. While we agree with the strategy for the Hub, we are concerned that the change proposal will reduce the number of face-to-face teachers from 9.6 to only 6 (full time equivalent).

The Learning Centre provides crucial support to the increasing proportion of Usyd students for whom English is not a first language, as well as to students who have experienced educational disadvantage.

SUPRA calls on the University of Sydney to retain Learning Centre staff, and prioritise targeted training to those who wish to transition to the new roles.

Read our full feedback to the University.

You can also sign the petition organised by the NTEU.

September 2020 SUPRA recommends more support for students with disabilities

SUPRA has recommended that a case management service be funded by the University of Sydney to augment its current Disability Services. We have made this recommendation in a submission to the review of the Commonwealth Disability Standards in Education. Our submission included case studies to demonstrate that many students with a disability struggle with managing complex University and faculty administrative processes while juggling health and participation in study.

Read SUPRA’s full submission.

SUPRA provides ongoing disability advocacy to individual postgrad students.

August 2020 SUPRA’s submission to the University about online learning in Semester 1, 2020

SUPRA conducted a survey for current students about the quality of online learning in semester 1, 2020. Results were reported to the Deputy Vice Chancellor Education to help improve students’ online study experience.

Download: Postgraduate Students’ Experience of Online Learning During Semester One 2020 at the University of Sydney

March 2020 SUPRA supports casual workers at Sydney University

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is currently offering free membership and fee relief for casuals for the next 3 months. Many of our members work at the University as casuals and will have been heavily impacted by the public health response to Covid-19. We at SUPRA fully support the campaign from NTEU to support all tertiary education staff, particularly with a focus on those with the most precarious employment in our sector.

For information about the campaign, union membership and your rights please visit the NTEU’s information page. And sign the NTEU petition to protect University workers during this crisis.

2020 SUPRA Co-President’s submission to the Vice Chancellor regarding students impacted by the COVID-19 travel ban

In late February of 2020, SUPRA wrote to the Vice Chancellor to encourage the University to offer financial support for students affected by the travel ban, as other universities were doing.


Letter 1 as a Word document
Letter 1 as a PDF
Letter 2 as a Word document
Letter 2 as a PDF

2018 SUPRA Submission to the NSW Ombudsman: Response to discussion paper on complaints about the supervision of postgraduate students

SUPRA’s submission highlighted a lack of transparency and real complexities in existing University processes when Higher Degree by Research students are forced to lodge complaints about their supervision. SUPRA offered proposals for improvements with an emphasis on commitment by the Faculty for early resolution and option for an independent mediator.

Download: SUPRA Submission to the NSW Ombudsman: Complaints about supervision of postgraduate students

2013 SUPRA Submission on sex and gender diversity

This submission was made to the Sydney University SEG Human Resources & Equity Committee, and asks the University to recognise the diversity of its students by making changes to its forms.

Download: SUPRA Submission on Sex and Gender Diversity

2013 Draft Standards for Research, Research Training and Learning Outcomes (Research Training) Submission

SUPRA responded to a call for comment on the Draft Standards for Research, Research Training and Learning Outcomes (Research Training) by the Higher Education Standards Panel. The HE Standards Panel is an expert Advisory Body established under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 (TEQSA Act 2011). The Panel has been established to provide independent advice to the Commonwealth Minister(s) responsible for tertiary education and research. The report was prepared by SUPRA’s Vice President (Policy) Kylee Hartman-Warren and contains recommendations for standards around minimum resources, support, independent representation and standards around Intellectual Property.

Download: SUPRA Submission HEStandards on Draft Standards for Research, Research Training and Learning Outcomes (Research Training).

2013 Endorsement: Mutlicultural Centre for Women’s Health – Position Paper on International Student access to pregnancy-related care

  1. After providing input and feedback on the issue, SUPRA endorsed a position paper developed by the Muticultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH), which makes recommendations around Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for International students. The paper highlights concerns about international student rights in relation to informed choice in sexual and reproductive health. The paper urges that the following measures be taken:
  2. The 12 month waiting period for all pregnancy-related treatment, including termination, should be removed from the terms of the OHS Deed. The federal government must take all appropriate measures to ensure that female international students, and international students in general, not only have affordable and non-discriminatory health insurance cover, but have access to culturally appropriate health information, health education and health services, including clear information about their right to access health services in Australia. The federal government needs to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women and to ensure appropriate services in connection with sexual and reproductive health.

Download the endorsed Position Paper on: Endorsed by SUPRA MCWH Position Paper on International Student Access to Pregnancy-related Care

2011 Fisher Library Submission

SUPRA submitted a report to the University concerning proposed changes to the Fisher Library. The report was prepared by SUPRA’s Co-Vice President (Policy) Katherine Harper and contains 13 recommendations to ensure that the Library continues to offer world-class educational support to University of Sydney students.

Download: SUPRA Submission on the Fisher Library Redevelopment

2011 Student Income Support Reforms

SUPRA submitted a report to the Student Income Support reform, which is looking at how a number of government reforms relating to (postgraduate) student income are working.

We reported that it was realistically too early for us to make any assessment as to whether the reforms have had an impact for postgraduate students. Specifically, the biggest reform will not take effect until 2012, which is when all full-time masters students would be entitled to receive AusStudy, rather than the limited approved professional courses now. Our submission summary was to recommend not to reverse any of the reforms that were currently planned for implementation.

Download: SUPRA Submission to the Review of Student Income Support Reforms

2011 Student Visa Program Review submission

SUPRA has finalised our submission to the Student Visa Program Review, prepared by Vice-President (Policy) Rashmi Kumar, Secretary and Director of Student Publications Kylee Hartman-Warren and one of our SAAOs, Francine Seeto. The Review looked at changing the Student Visa Program which enables international students to study in Australia.

We made 14 recommendations, including arguing for:

  • The reduction of study visa costs and processing times
  • For the government to offer credit to international students for their tuition and living costs
  • For Schedule 3 of the SOL to be revised to include a broader section of academic fields
  • For the ability to extend 485 visas, and for students to extend visas up to the date of their graduation ceremony
  • For all restrictions on working hours to be removed from student visas

Download: SUPRA’s Submission-StudentVisaReview

2011 Base Funding Review

SUPRA’s submission to the review panel making recommendations regarding the basis of Government funding of higher education.

2011 Minimum Resources

SUPRA has put together a submission about a draft policy on resources for postgraduate research students. Check out the submission on SUPRA Submission on the draft University policy regarding Minimum Resources for Postgraduate Research Students

2011 Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA)

In 2009 the Federal Government announced that it would establish a new national body to regulate higher education: the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). The draft legislation was finally released in late February 2011. SUPRA made a submission, prepared by SUPRA’s Vice-President (Policy), Rashmi Kumar, to the consultation concentrating on:

  • The need for universities to be under as much scrutiny as private providers;
  • The capacity for students to access TEQSA to make complaints and raise concerns; and
  • The need for TEQSA to have strong powers to enforce actions on universities, in the interests of students.

There will be further consultation over 2011, as legislative instruments establishing the standards for quality education, and guidelines for TEQSA’s operation, are put together.

The full SUPRA Submission can be downloaded from this link: Submission relating to the Draft Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) Legislation

2010 Student Services and Amenities Fee

In 2010 the Labor Party reintroduced Student Service and Amenities Fee Bill which would allow for up to $250 to be charged per annum to each student. However there were no appropriate restrictions on how this money would be spent or guarantees that it would go to student associations. SUPRA’s submission outlines our proposed changes to the Bill which would benefit all students, particularly postgraduates who are frequently overlooked in representation bodies.

John Nowakowski, SUPRA President, prepared the submission encouraging dedicated funding for student organisations particularly for postgraduate and international students; and insisting that the provision of student representation and advocacy is maintained through independent bodies free from conflicts of interest. Further more SUPRA wishes to see increased transparency and reporting in the development of guidelines, benchmarks and protocols for the Bill. Full submission available for download: Submission to the Inquiry into Higher Education Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill 2010 

2010 Submission to the Australian Qualifications Framework

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is a national framework for qualifications offered by universities, TAFEs etc, to ensure consistency across all types of qualifications (degrees, diplomas etc); as well as to promote international recognition of Australian qualifications.  The AQF recently requested submissions for its package of proposed policies to strengthen the AQF.

John Nowakowski, SUPRA President, prepared SUPRA’s submission, which encouraged a strong commitment to an AQF; and argued for the need to bolster perceptions around the quality of education, teaching and assessment. In particular, this position maintained its rejection of the emergence of professional doctorates, like the University of Sydney’s “Juris Doctor”, which is effectively an undergrad qualification re-branded as a Masters by Coursework.

A significant part of this argument was to highlight that the honorific of ‘Doctor’ should be reserved for sustained and significant contribution to original knowledge, thereby agreeing with the Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies that ‘research is a fundamental defining characteristic of a doctorate’.

Submission to the Australian Qualifications Framework

2010 Australian Research Workforce Strategy

The federal government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) has been working on The Research Workforce Strategy – in order to meet its three main challenges:

(a) ensuring that there are sufficient Higher Degree Research-qualified individuals to meet workforce demands;

(b) maintaining the quality and international standing of Australian research degrees; and

(c) providing supportive career structures and pathways for researchers throughout their careers.

Rashmi Kumar (SUPRA Co-Vice-President), John Nowakowski (SUPRA President), and Adrian Cardinali (Student Advice and Advocacy Officer Co-Coordinator), prepared a submission in response to this strategy.

The area they highlighted as a significant concern was how the Research Training Scheme (RTS) and Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) funding agreements do not encourage flexible degree programs that can accommodate student needs. Specifically flagged was the 4-year funding time limits on the RTS; and the current requirement to demonstrate special circumstances to be eligible for part-time enrollment.

Recommendations in this submission included: increased income support for Higher Degree Research students; increased diversity of pathways to research training; support for teaching development; policies of minimum resource standards; greater equity strategies; improved collegiality and supervision; and improved research career development.

Submission to DIISR regarding Australia’s Research Workforce

2010 Visa Capping and the General Skilled Migration Program

You may have heard that the Federal Government is considering a change to migration laws that would allow the Immigration Minister to terminate an application for permanent residency under the General Skilled Migration program. The proposed laws would also mean that if the Minister terminated the application, the applicant would have to leave the country within 28 days. SUPRA is worried that a lot of international students might be disadvantaged by the proposed laws and is very concerned, so we wrote to the Federal Government outlining our oppositions and you can download our submission below.

Submission to the Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill 2010

2010 Juris Doctor

The Juris Doctor (JD) is a degree program which the Faculty of Law has proposed to replace its current graduate-entry LLB program. The JD is essentially an identical degree program to the graduate LLB program, with some cosmetic changes. SUPRA and the SRC have a number of concerns about this change, including the inequitable nature of the proposed program, and the compromise of academic standards that would be required to offer it. We also do not believe that all the Faculty’s claims accurately reflect the realities of the JD’s position within the legal education system and provide the below Position Paper.

Position Paper: Juris Doctor at the University of Sydney

2010 International Students

The Educations Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 and an associated National Code of Practice, govern the way international student are supported whilst studying in Australia. In the wake of student complaints that they were not being protected a review was commenced by the Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations commonly known as the Baird Review. The review needed to consider how best to supporting the interests of students, deliver quality education, provide effective regulation, and keep the sustainability of the international education. It provided an opportunity for student associations to call for big improvements in the rights and treatment of international students. SUPRA lodged a submission to this important review.

Submission to the Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (Baird Review)

2010 Residential Tenancy

In October 2010 SUPRA submitted a response to the Department of Fair Trading in relation to the draft regulations for the new Residential Tenancies Act 2010. We called on the State to ensure that student tenants in University provided accommodation be covered by the Act and allowed access to CTTT. This will mean that student residents in other forms of student accommodation provided by the University and which are not ‘residential colleges’ will have access to fair and independent processes. We also argued for a standard form for students in shared accommodation to be created so that students can transfer their tenancy. We are still waiting for news from the department as to weather any of SUPRA’s recommendation have been accepted, but we will keep you updated on progress.

Response to Draft Residential Tenancies Regulations 2010

In 2009 the NSW government proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987. The Act is important to students because it governs the rights you have when you are a tenant. In a submission from SUPRA in response we called for the exemption for educational institutions to be removed so that students living on campus will have the same rights as other tenants in the community, we called for the removal of provisions that would make it easier for landlords to enter premises when they are selling properties, and we made recommendations that would help those sharing a house by advocating improvements for sub tenants and co-tenants. A full copy of our submission can be downloaded below.

Response to Draft Residential Tenancies Legislation December 2009

2009 Harassment and Discrimination

The University of Sydney introduced a Harassment Prevention Policy, a Discrimination Prevention Policy, and Harassment and Discrimination Resolution procedures in 2002. These policies were drafted by the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales who did an excellent job as a consultant to the University. The policy was written in clear and accessible language, and included plenty of support and safeguards for students. In 2009 and in an attempt to amalgamate these three policies into one, a new draft policy was proposed to replace all three previous policies. From the student perspective the draft policy was a disaster and SUPRA had serious concerns.

The draft policy removed the right of students to consult Harassment and Discrimination Support Officers, explicit time frames encouraging speedy resolution, and the requirement to have a complaints investigator who functions independently of the University management structure. In addition, provisions around protecting confidentiality and preventing victimisation were weakened, there was no statistical reporting requirements, and the University Colleges were not covered. In short it was not a student friendly draft.

SUPRA worked closely with the SRC to produce a detailed submission in response to the draft policy. We then worked closely with the University’s Staff and Student Equal Opportunity Unit (SSEOU) leading to progress around issues that matter to students. We followed up our progress with a letter to the Vice Chancellor. We called for the colleges to be brought under the policy, we called for the maintenance of an independent Manager, Harassment and Discrimination Resolution position, and we called for the effectiveness of the policy to be reviewed. We received a very promising response from the Vice Chancellor.

A new policy is already now in place, and it is much improved for students as compared to the first draft, because of the work of your postgraduate student association.

Comments on the Draft Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy and Resolution Procedure

Letter to the Vice-Chancellor regarding Harassment and Discrimination Policies

Response from the Vice-Chancellor

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