Research and policies
GSA develops policies on issues that affect graduate students.
Safety on Placement report
At the University of Melbourne, placements are offered in some graduate degrees to
provide practical work experience and enhance students’ learning. This supports students
to interact with external parties such as site staff, supervisors, other students, and the public.
Placements are compulsory in some graduate coursework degrees including the Master of
Teaching, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Physiotherapy, Master of Nursing Science and other
degrees in the health sciences.
Through involvement in the University of Melbourne Respect Taskforce and from
conversations with stakeholder organisations including the University of Melbourne
Student Union (UMSU), GSA identified that many students have limited awareness of
processes concerning sexual assault and harassment on placement. Initial feedback
from students indicated that they received little information and support on this prior
to completing placement.
In 2021, the University of Melbourne published its first stand-alone sexual misconduct policy.
In the consultation phase, GSA advocated for the inclusion of student placements in the
policy, however we note that the final policy does not adequately address this issue as it
does not apply to individuals who are not affiliated with the University that students may
interact with on placement. The policy does not provide a process for students to report
sexual misconduct on placement that is perpetrated by non-University staff or students. We
have continued this project to further our advocacy for student safety on placement.
Submission to the Amendments to Assessment and Results Policy
The University has proposed changes to the grading scheme and how grades are recorded:
- Adopting the “High Distinction/Distinction/Credit/Pass” grading scale, and adjusting cut-off grades accordingly, in line with other Australian universities.
- On students’ transcripts, record the median score and number of students for each subject (for subjects with a minimum of ten students).
To facilitate graduate student input to the proposed policy change, GSA conducted a survey. Based on the findings, we make the following recommendations to the University of Melbourne
- The University should adopt the “High Distinction/Distinction/Credit/Pass” grading scale.
- The University of Melbourne should provide information on median scoring in an alternative manner and not include the medians on academic transcripts.
- The University should establish and communicate a timeline to implement the proposed grading system and consult with students on retrospective application of the system.
- The University of Melbourne should undertake regular consultations which are student-centric, inclusive and in a timely manner for all decision-making related to student outcomes.
Coursework research report
Overall, coursework students undertaking research experiences expressed that research enabled them to enhance their knowledge of their field and meet their desired learning outcomes. This report focuses on concerns raised by students in relation to course quality and the research experience and provides recommendations for improving coursework students’ engagement with research.
The most common concern students expressed was that they did not receive enough research methods training in preparation for their research experiences. This could be addressed by a subject that teaches methodologies specific to their discipline in depth, and by offering more support to understand interdisciplinary methodologies. Many students interviewed wanted more opportunities to connect to research students to facilitate resource sharing and to support them to become better researchers. All students expressed that the relationship with their supervisor was critical to the outcome of the subject. While some students had incredibly helpful supervisors, others sought more support and guidance. Supervisors could be better resourced and trained to enhance how they support their students.
Additionally, students made the following suggestions to improve coursework research experiences:
- More support for International Students to enhance their academic English proficiency.
- Comprehensive information provision prior to enrolment, to enable students to prepare and understand learning outcomes.
- Greater distinction between the Master of Research and Master’s by coursework degrees with significant research components.
- Consistency and clarity in thesis grading in Masters by Coursework degrees.
- A shorter ethics approval timeline as in the current process there are substantial delays experienced by coursework research graduates.
In response to this student feedback, GSA has made 9 recommendations to enable Coursework students to succeed in their research subjects.
Graduate LGBTQIA+ Inclusion Findings
GSA advocates for a community that champions inclusion, safety, and respect for our LGBTQIA+ graduate students. We surveyed 330 graduate students to identify opportunities to support the LGBTQIA+ graduate community at the University of Melbourne. 173 students identified as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The key findings were:
- Only 24% of students agreed that their needs were met by University services.
- Only 39% responded that the University policies are inclusive.
- Only 20% of students indicated that levels of representation at the University community are suitable.
- Many students commented on the need for increased awareness about what support services are offered to LGBTQIA+ students.
In response to this student feedback, GSA has published 6 recommendations to pave the way for more inclusive and meaningful University support.
Strengthening International Students’ Access to University Support Services
International Graduate Students have reported many constraints in accessing University of Melbourne support services. Covid-19 has exacerbated the demand for meaningful support as students endure social isolation, online learning, financial stress, and other personal challenges in relation to mental and physical health. GSA surveyed 324 International Graduate Students to identify how access to support can be strengthened.
The six key issues include:
- Lack of awareness of the support services offered by the University.
- Services that are culturally appropriate acknowledging diversity.
- Lack of appropriate language skills to navigate the systems in Australia.
- Graduate-specific support.
- Stigma around accessing the appropriate health care in relation to mental and sexual health.
In response to these challenges, GSA has published 9 key recommendations to pave the way for more accessible and equitable University support.
Submission to consultation on University of Melbourne Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Policy
This submission outlines six key issues that GSA would like the University of Melbourne to consider to finalise this important policy, including information on implementation and mechanisms to review the effectiveness of the policy.
The six key issues include:
- Ensuring student are included in the creation/ownership of the policy,
- Improving and increasing the accessibility of the policy,
- Providing clarity on processes outlined in this policy including legal
- Explicitly including off-site learning environments including placement
- Explicitly including the research supervision relationship, and
- Embedding student engagement in implementation and evaluation.
Submission to the University of Melbourne gender affirmation policy consultation
GSA consulted with graduate student representatives to provide feedback on the proposed policy. Representatives to University committees, misconduct representatives, council members, and GSA staff were all invited to provide feedback.
Suggestions were received on providing clarity on definitions and processes and linking the policy to other resources and support services. There is also a need for the policy to acknowledge the impact of cultural diversity, and how understandings and expressions of gender differ cross-culturally.
- Expand the policy to clearly define terminology including ‘transgender’, ‘gender diverse’, ‘non-binary’.
- Provide a plain language definition of ‘gender affirmation’.
- Add a statement to the policy expressing recognition of cultural diversity and that this influences understandings of gender and gender identity.
- Provide students with accompanying resources to understand and navigate university processes for gender affirmation
- Specify where students can obtain assistance in developing a gender affirmation plan.
- Provide a gender affirmation plan template.
Submission on Proposed Amendments to the Management of Research Data and Records Policy
GSA Education (Research) Officer, Monica Sestito, has developed a submission in response to the University of Melbourne’s Proposed Amendments to the Management of Research Data and Records Policy. This submission clearly analyses some of the concerns of our graduate researchers in relation to the proposed changes.
The recommendations include:
- The Management of Research Data and Records Policy should maintain a distinction between researchers, defined as staff or honorary staff, and research students, and clearly demarcate the different levels of responsibilities for each category.
- The Management of Research Data and Records Policy should enshrine in its procedural principles the resources and services available to all research students, including graduate researchers and coursework students undertaking a minor thesis, to meet their data management responsibilities, jointly held with their supervisors.
Academic Progress Review in Graduate Research Courses Policy
Read the GSA Education (Research) Officer’s submission to the Academic Board on Academic Progress Review in Graduate Research Courses Policy.
Academic Skills Submission
The University of Melbourne has proposed changes to the Academic Skills Division as part of its Pandemic Reset Program. Academic Skills assists students to attain academic continuity and supports their academic performance through workshops, one-to-one support, and other coaching and mentoring strategies. Academic Skills advisors can also provide coaching to enhance and develop English Language skills.
GSA sought feedback from graduate student representatives and GSA staff on the proposed changes to the Academic Skills Division. Based on the feedback received, on behalf of the graduate students, GSA suggests amending the change proposal to align staff advisor hours to meet students’ demands. In GSA’s view, the current plan to reduce advisors by 1.0 FTE will not meet students’ requirements.
Graduate Researchers Report
GSA conducted an online survey to collect information on the impact of Covid-19 on graduate researchers’ projects and overall experience. This report explores the perspectives of graduate research students in response to the Covid-19 extension and leave provisions at the University of Melbourne. By highlighting the current challenges graduate researchers are experiencing, the report aims to strengthen the University’s understanding of the support needs of graduate researchers.
In 2020, the University of Melbourne created paid leave and candidature extensions for graduate researchers whose research had been impacted by Covid-19. Graduate researchers approaching the end of their study were granted automatic extensions.
In January 2021, the University limited the existing support provisions by:
- Removing automatic extensions for candidates approaching the end of their study
- Restricting paid Covid-19 leave to those who have caught Covid-19 or are required to self-isolate; or are the primary carer of someone who has caught Covid-19 or is required to self-isolate.
Key issues found included:
- Students falling behind due to Covid-19
- Failing to sufficiently support students, creating a risk of students taking longer to complete or withdrawing their candidature
- Policies create an extra administrative and psychological burden for graduate students
- Graduate students are not able to access the paid Covid-19 leave that they need.
Student Resilience Project
GSA undertook the Student Resilience Project to better understand graduate students’ emotional, physical and social wellbeing at the University of Melbourne.
The main findings were:
- Being able to access support services is an important aspect of resilience, however, students reported difficulties with waiting lists, navigating bureaucracy and suitability of services.
- Students were impacted by difficulties in accessing mental health support and insufficiency of services to meet their needs.
- Some students do not feel valued as members of the University community and do not feel connected to the University. This negatively impacts their student experience.
- Most students had their studies impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, including through changes to their study mode, stress, financial difficulties, health issues and housing instability.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing issues around accessing support, communication and campus connectedness.
Subject Cancellation Survey
In response to growing concerns about subject options and delivery modes in 2021, we conducted a survey of graduate coursework students to understand the extent of subject cancellations and the impact of online-only delivery.
We found that one third of students surveyed reported that their course has cancelled subjects for 2021. Three quarters of students expressed some level of displeasure or negativity regarding subject cuts and online learning. For students due to graduate this year, there is a greater impact of subject cancellations and changes to study mode as this may impact their completion date.
We are concerned about reduction of available subject choices, quality of education, and students’ satisfaction and engagement with their courses.
Going forward, we are advocating to the University on offering a broad range of subjects and reinstating cancelled subjects where there is student demand.
Safety on Placement project
Tuesday 9th March 2021
The Safety on Placement project will consult with students on university placement and internship issues with a focus on prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and workplace misconduct.This action research project aims to provide recommendations to the University of Melbourne on best practice to prevent sexual assault, and on handling of reports when an incident has occurred.
This project is undertaken by GSA and is supported by a steering committee comprised from the University of Melbourne, the NTEU, and UMSU.
We are seeking project participants from University of Melbourne graduate students who meet the following criteria:
- Studying a coursework degree with a placement or internship.
- Has at least twelve months of enrolment left, and at least one placement planned in this time.
Participants will be required to complete an initial survey and a follow-up survey.
Participants who complete the first survey will be sent a follow-up survey in late 2021. The first 200 students who complete the follow-up survey will receive a $10 voucher at the end of the project, as a token of our appreciation for the time spent.
If you have any questions about the survey or would like further information about the Safety on Placement project, please contact email@example.com.
If you need to seek help relating to issues of sexual assault and harassment, the following resources are available:
University of Melbourne Safer Community Program
- (03) 9035 8675
University of Melbourne Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
- (03) 8344 6927
1800RESPECT National counselling helpline (24 hours)
- 1800 737 732
Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA)
GSA’s advocacy wins 2020
Read a summary of GSA’s successful advocacy results in 2020.
Parents on Campus report
Parents on Campus highlighted factors that hinder the academic success and sense of belonging at the University for student parents, including:
- The failure of the University to adequately accommodate the caring responsibilities of students through a family-friendly environment in terms of support, facilities, physical space and culture
- Failing to represent student parents in dedicated policies
- The inaccessibility of University childcare due to cost and inflexibility
- The sense of invisibility and alienation student parents experience as a result of these factors.
This report informs recommendations for improving the student-parent experience for the University, the Federal Government and within GSA.
Recommendations to the University include:
- Ensure University policies align with student parent needs and are implemented appropriately
- Increase access to University childcare
- Make facilities, supports and physical spaces more ‘family-friendly’.
GSA continues to advocate to the University for change to improve the experience of all students.
GSA’s response to proposed changes to special consideration
Special consideration is a crucial component of ensuring equity. GSA strongly opposes the amendments that propose removing a student’s capacity to apply for special consideration for completed assessments – among several other recommendations.
Policy statement on climate emergency
GSA demands that the Australian Government immediately declare a climate emergency, followed by concrete commitments; and that the University of Melbourne uses their influence to put pressure on the government to meet those demands and take action.
Supporting Climate Strike on 20 September 2019
GSA endorses the September 20th general Climate Strike and advocates that the University of Melbourne release graduate students and staff from work and study in order to attend the climate strike.
Law School Seminar Recordings
GSA calls on the Melbourne Law School to revise its policy around students’ access to recordings of seminars.
Conversion of student start-up scholarships to loans
GSA condemns federal legislation that has moved to convert Student Start-up Scholarships to loans.
Professional editors for RHD theses
GSA supports the University of Melbourne’s current policy which precludes the use of professional editors for research theses in all but exceptional cases.
Public transport concessions for graduate students
GSA believes that all full-time Victorian graduate students should have access to student public transport concessions.
RHD timely completion
students at the University of Melbourne. However, measures to increase the percentage of
timely completion should focus wholly or mainly on initiatives that support RHD students
Study spaces for graduate students
Supporting Respect. Now. Always.