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.
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.
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.
March 2020 SUPRA supports casual workers at Sydney University
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.
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.
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.
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.
2013 Endorsement: Mutlicultural Centre for Women’s Health – Position Paper on International Student access to pregnancy-related care
- 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:
- 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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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