Research and policies

GSA develops policies on issues that affect graduate students.

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.

View the report

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.

View the report

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.

View the report

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.

View the report

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.

Take the survey

If you have any questions about the survey or would like further information about the Safety on Placement project, please contact policy_advocacy@gsa.unimelb.edu.au.

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

University of Melbourne Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

1800RESPECT National counselling helpline (24 hours)

Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA)

GSA’s advocacy wins 2020

Read a summary of GSA’s successful advocacy results in 2020.

View wins

Parents on Campus report

As part of GSA’s representation and advocacy mandate, the GSA has conducted research to understand and improve the educational experiences of graduate student parents.

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.

View report

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.

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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.

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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.

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Law School Seminar Recordings

GSA calls on the Melbourne Law School to revise its policy around students’ access to recordings of seminars.

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Conversion of student start-up scholarships to loans

GSA condemns federal legislation that has moved to convert Student Start-up Scholarships to loans.

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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.

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Public transport concessions for graduate students

GSA believes that all full-time Victorian graduate students should have access to student public transport concessions.

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RHD timely completion

GSA recognises the importance of timely completion for Research Higher Degree (RHD)
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
toward completion.

Study spaces for graduate students

GSA asserts that the University has a responsibility to ensure that all students have adequate and appropriate study spaces, and to monitor and enforce provision of study spaces in faculties and graduate schools.

Supporting Respect. Now. Always.

GSA supports the Respect. Now. Always. campaign, founded by Universities Australia and endorsed by the University of Melbourne, intended to prevent and address sexual assault and harassment among university students and staff.

Supporting Safe Schools

GSA is an official supporter of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia, and values their work in making schools safer for young LGBTIQ+ people.