We are pleased that the Australian Universities Accord Final Report recommends that part-time HDR students’ stipends should not be taxed.

Currently, stipends received by part-time students are regarded as taxable income, whereas stipends for full-time students are not taxed. The final report specifies that ‘this is an anomaly that should be removed’.

SUPRA recommended this in our response to the Interim Report, and Disabilities Officer Gemma Lucy Smart and Carers’ Officer Eva Midtgaard also lobbied for it.

SUPRA will continue lobbying to ensure this recommendation is implemented as soon as possible.

 Congratulations to SUPRA council and staff for a successful campaign!

The full recommendation

5.5.5 Training the next generation of researchers
Universities, as the only institutions empowered to award PhDs, undertake most of the research training in Australia. Most of this training is funded by the Australian Government through the Research Training Program (RTP). Given its central funding role in research training, the Government must address some existing problems to secure Australia’s research pipeline.


A priority is the current stipend for HDR students, provided through the RTP. The stipend is too low and is not attracting enough of the best students to become the next generation of researchers, including students from under-represented backgrounds. Potential candidates are currently faced with an economic disincentive to pursue research training. The very individuals best suited to pursue research careers have ample other avenues open to them – they are our smartest and most curious, and industry can easily trump the RTP stipend to entice them away from research. In other cases, it is less a case of incentive or opportunity cost than sheer possibility – their financial circumstances simply render the semi-voluntary labour of HDR life impossible.


The Review acknowledges that the stipend is not a wage, but it should be higher than its current rate. An increase to the minimum RTP stipend would bring Australia more in line with global competitors, given that the lower bound of the RTP ($29,863 in 2023) is lower than stipends internationally when adjusted for purchasing power parity. While Australia’s maximum stipend rate ($46,653 in 2023) is more competitive with other countries’ rates, this rate is rarely offered to stipend recipients. An increase to the minimum stipend rate will ensure Australia can continue to attract top research students, and will favour improved completion rates. An increase to the rate must be funded by an expansion of the RTP pool, to avoid reducing the total number of RTP-funded HDR students.


In addition, if a student is studying part-time, their stipend is treated as taxable income, whereas full-time stipends are not taxable. This is an anomaly that should be removed. From an equity perspective, HDR students from under-represented backgrounds are relatively over-represented in part-time studies (see Table 5), and yet the relative value of their support is reduced by taxation. This tax treatment affects parents, particularly women. It also disincentivises students currently working in industry who are looking to undertake research training without leaving their positions – an arrangement we ought to be encouraging as a nation. As such, it goes against 2 key aims of the Review – to increase participation in higher education from under-represented groups and to make sure Australian research is as high impact as possible. Students should be given maximum flexibility to complete their higher degrees by research, making part-time scholarships tax-free (see Recommendation 26). This would mean being able to undertake research training full-time or part-time as required, making part-time scholarships tax-free (see Recommendation 26), and not being financially disadvantaged for doing whichever works best. This flexibility will improve connections between research students and industry partners, build on the linkages to industry required to produce high impact research, and ensure the opportunity to undertake a higher degree by research is open to all, including those for whom it may not otherwise be economically feasible. This reform, combined with an improved stipend rate, will also help boost part-time HDR completion rates, which are weaker than for their full-time colleagues.