Yesterday, ANU’s Postgraduate and Research Student’s Association (PARSA) released an open letter to the political parties and candidates running in the federal election on the key financial, social and environmental issues that postgraduate students in Australia currently face. 

The letter urged politicians to commit to taking meaningful and direct action in order to combat the challenges that postgraduate students in Australian educational institutions face. 

The open letter highlighted the major barriers confronted by postgraduate students in accessing exceptional higher education. This, combined with the increased cost of living conditions, greater cost of education and the consistent cuts to funds has established an unsafe and unequal environment within Australian universities.

PARSA has recommended four policy commitments for political candidates and parties to adopt in the upcoming federal election: 

  1. Reverse cuts to funding, eradicate indexation on student loans, and increase federal grants and subsidies for postgraduate and research students beyond the Job-Ready Graduate Package. 
  2. Establish sustainable and high-quality jobs, deliver work-integrated learning opportunities for postgraduate students and create greater protections to prevent workplace exploitation. 
  3. Commit to policy initiatives and institutional changes to make our universities safer, more inclusive and more accessible to all. 
  4. Take meaningful action on climate change, including increasing funding for renewable energy research initiatives, clean energy and environmental policy studies. 

Representing over 9,000 students at the ANU, PARSA acknowledges the importance universities have to Australia’s prosperity. PARSA believes that federal elections will be critical in ensuring the voices of postgraduate students are heard and acknowledged. 

With the exploitative conditions of the workplace, the reduced opportunities within academia and the threat of climate change, postgraduate students at the ANU and broader Australian educational institutions demand a push for change in education affordability, higher quality jobs, the elimination of inequality and the combating of climate change. 

Despite a push from the National Union of Students and now from PARSA, there has been limited discussion from the major parties on student issues. The election is just weeks away, and time will tell if students are to feature in the debate.