There used to be a time when Australia had the title ‘the clever country’ and it seemed, in many ways, it was. The nation was at the forefront of research in many field, our scientists were paid big money to work overseas and education actually seemed to be important. I doubt few could argue that the situation is the same in the modern day with Australia boasting an extremely substandard telecommunications network (thanks, Telstra!), substandard energy/resources grid, much less money in the education system and even less going into research. Some have coined one of the causes of these problems as ‘the brain drain’, where there is a mix of the best scientists being poached overseas (and not coming back) and (probably more importantly) a lack of new scientists and students.
Judging by the article below, it is no surprise why we find ourselves in this particular mess.
The standard PhD scholarship is now worth about $20,000, which means it has fallen below the official Henderson poverty line. (The University of Queensland: Chris Stacey)
Anyone who has undertaken a PhD will tell you it can be a long, harrowing journey.
New figures show the income support rate for PhD students in Australia has, for the first time, fallen below the poverty line.
It is forcing students to drop out of university or neglect their research so they can take on part-time jobs.
A leading academic group is worried this will have an impact on the whole economy.
With study after study saying the same thing, life as a university student is getting a reputation for being one of destitution.
It is hard enough for 19- or 20-year-olds but what about those who go on to further degrees?
Daniel Bond, 24, is doing a PhD in computer science at the University of Western Australia and his main source of income is a standard university scholarship.
“A lot of the people you went through uni with are earning three or four times what you are,” he said.
“You also sort of want to have a bit more of a normal life – start saving, and not the low-budget student life that you might have had as an undergrad.”
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has analysed the data since the early 1990s.
The Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) collaborated with CAPA and found the standard PhD scholarship has fallen from about half of average earnings to about a third.
The scholarship is now worth about $20,000 which means this year it has fallen below the official Henderson poverty line.
CHASS president Stuart Cunningham says it is having an obvious effect.
“That is causing a number of PhD students to rethink the prospects of being able to study, complete a PhD,” he said.
It is also having an impact on students who choose to stay.
The president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), Nigel Palmer, says many people are sacrificing the quality of their work just to survive.
“The conditions of the award mean that they can only work for eight hours a week, which often means they do casual teaching,” he said.
“Balancing research and teaching work together is very difficult and it inevitably comes at a cost in them completing their research.”
He says the first and easiest way to address the concerns of students is to increase the standard scholarship, or APA, by about 30 per cent.
He is also recommending the scholarships cover a longer period and that more be made available for international students.
Professor Cunningham says if these measures are not taken up, it will have an effect on the whole economy, because these students are needed to fill skills shortages.
“Between a fifth and a third of the Australian academic work force is expected to retire in the next five to 10 years,” he said.
“The baby boomers are basically falling off the twigs, so we’re going to need a very, very major renewal of the academic work force.”
The proposed changes have been presented to the Federal Government for consideration.
From that, it is relatively safe to say that the current funding for people who are undoubtedly Australia’s future is pretty horrendous. These are the people who will make discoveries, who will be a driving force in bettering humanity as a whole and pave the way for the future. Who will be doing the work and research that will solve all the problems we see in the modern day. Why would young people be encouraged to go and do all this work when they get paid below the poverty line?
What sense does it make for the Federal and State Governments to have such low levels of Higher Education funding (and education in general) when they can throw One Hundred Million dollars at a religious festival so people can go and worship a decayed corpse?