More pay to stop the PhD student slide

Most candidates are in their mid 30s, “many raising and supporting families,” Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson warns in a speech this morning

“And right now these students are studying on less than the minimum wage, she states in the text of her address to the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association.

She adds that because PhD candidates are considered students not staff, women among them do not qualify for government parental leave.

“If we are serious about maintaining this workforce to maintain the output, we need to do better for our researchers.”

Ms Jackson warns the number of PhD graduates fell from around 9500 in 2019 to 8500 in ’21.

“We need to arrest this slide. In times of crisis, or changes in priorities, governments and businesses draw on their academic expertise to solve complex problems,” she says.

Ms Jackson calls for the government to “lift the rate of PhD stipends to a more liveable level” with no reduction in PhD places or stipends.

The employment status of doctoral students has been challenged in the past, with a 2019 Queensland case where the state’s public workforce insurer sought to charge universities premiums for PhD students as workers. A test case was  successfully opposed by AHEIA for CQU (CMM July 8 2019, January 20 2020).