Update from GSA President – 14th September 2022

Welcome to the September edition of the President’s Blog.

Currently swamped with assignments, tests, a literature review, and an industry project, I cannot wait for the mid semester break. Although, for most graduate students, research, and coursework alike, it is a break in theory only.

The real break will be at our inaugural Graduate Art Prize night in late October!

Get painting, drawing, sculpting, composing, because this year we will have more prizes and more prestige than ever before. I may even submit a pair of handmade shoes…

This month was a tremendous win for advocacy at GSA, and I cannot wait to continue our momentum into the rest of the year (more to come on Fares Fair, Grad Groups and more soon).

PhD Stipend Indexation Rates

Managing long days in the laboratory or the library, to construct a monumental body of work, graduate researchers are some of the most overlooked students in the university.

Graduate researchers are often supported by a stipend – a living allowance – far below that of a standard salary. These stipends are highly competitive to receive, with MDHS students requiring WAMs well into the 80’s to have a chance of receiving one. However, despite the prestigious nature of the awards, they are often barely enough for students to live on, valued at just $32,400 a year and indexed at 1.8%

However, with inflation already at over 5% this year, the real value of graduate stipends would decrease in value. In the first few weeks of my term as president, a group of graduate researchers reached out to me regarding this issue.

After advocating on the issue to the University for several months, I am pleased to report that the indexation rates have been increased to 6.1%, thereby increasing the 2023 rate to $34,400 p/a (full time). This is a significant win for graduate researchers, and the combined work of the GSA and the University, who were sympathetic to the challenges grad students encounter.

Quality Indicators for Teaching and Learning (QILT) Student Experience Survey (SES) Results

Despite improvements from the 2020 results, the University of Melbourne ranks lowest nationally on student satisfaction.

This is in contrast with the University of Melbourne’s international rankings and graduate employability outcomes.

At GSA, we have worked diligently during the pandemic and beyond to provide quality submissions and advocate for graduate wins such as No-disadvantages WAM Policies (WAMnesty), PhD extensions and the Emergency Support Fund.

The improved clarity to study settings, and continued advocacy from student orgs, has resulted in increased satisfaction over laboratory and studio equipment and other learning resources.

Yet, despite the Universities implementation of many of our recommendations, the data still suggests that graduate students are dissatisfied with the level of support they receive.

Moreover, the QILT results tell a worrying story about graduate studies. With graduate sense of belonging and interactions outside studies going backwards.

These results suggest that the need for GSA is greater than ever.

As the oldest student organisation at the University of Melbourne, it is our duty to contribute positively to the University community and provide an institution which generates lifelong friendships and unforgettable experiences whilst continuing our advocacy mission.

We look forward to working with the university community to help foster a sense of belonging and student voice.

Faculty Council and GSA Elections

With the finalisation of our Faculty Council election results and on-boarding of the new representatives into the GSA team, our GSA elections are finally over.

Student representation at GSA is the most rewarding experience of my 5 years at the University of Melbourne. It is an honour to work with such a diverse and talented team of independent graduates.

Thanks to the hard work of the General Secretary and CEO, we have overseen the first Faculty Council election, with representatives from every faculty.

Watching a truly grassroots and organic election unfold between the faculty nominees was a sight to remember, with several hotly contested elections taking place!

This is in no small part thanks to the exceptional work of the staff in generating an unforgettable orientation program which has put GSA back on the map.

I am looking forward to getting to know the expanded team and continue delivering for all graduates with even greater capacity!

If you are interested in getting involved with the GSA, or need any support, feel free to reach out to me at President@gsa.unimelb.edu.au