Essential Resources for Postgraduate Research Students

The University of Sydney is committed to providing postgraduate research students with the support and resources necessary to undertake research and complete their degrees. This commitment is described in the Essential Resources for Postgraduate Research Students Policy 2012. This policy:

  1. sets out the University’s commitment to providing postgraduate research students with the support and resources necessary for them to undertake their research successfully and complete their degrees;
  2. supports the proper supervision and training of postgraduate research students;
  3. supports the sustainable and responsible use of resources; and
  4. provides for shared and equitable access to finite support resources.

Background information

Every candidate and research project is individual and will have different and specific needs. The underlying basis of the Essential Resources for Postgraduate Research Students policy is to provide some framework for discussions between the candidate and the University about the resources that are available to support each individual candidature. In the first instance, this will be between the student and the supervisor, although the involvement of the postgraduate co-coordinator for the school/discipline or the faculty may be required.

The University of Sydney provides very significant support to HDR students. The recent Full Cost of Research Training survey (conducted on behalf of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, click here for full report) estimated that the University of Sydney spent $92.4M supporting HDR students in 2009, compared to only $65M in Research Training Scheme (RTS) income. Please note that this spending did not include any scholarships or capital expenditure used to improve facilities. This level of subsidization of HDR (mostly from external research funds) is the same as other Go8 research-intensive universities and much higher than some other Australian universities who do not cross-subsidize HDR at all.

This is not to say that support resources for HDR are students are always sufficient or provided in a consistent fashion across the University. Without a significant increase in RTS funding or some other source of income, the challenge for the University is to prioritize and deliver resources using the existing funding in an efficient and effective way to benefit students as best possible.

This is true of research at any stage of a researcher’s career. From student through to emeritus professor, research funding is nearly always obtained through a competitive process, and is rarely provides everything that is ideally needed for research. Researchers must always learn to ‘cut their cloth according to their means’.

From the Student Research Experience Questionnaire (SREQ, sent to all HDR students every second year), and from surveying supervisors, we know that there are areas of particular concerns to students and supervisors alike. There are some very difficult and complex issues that will need further long-term work. Most notably, these include:

  1. provision of desks for HDR students
  2. provision of resources for students working offsite or in remote locations
  3. provision of training
  4. provision of travel funding (for conferences, fieldwork etc).

As the answers to these issues are complex and may require substantial funding, they need to be addressed at a University-wide level. The University of Sydney intends to address the provision of resources for HDR students in the following ways:

  1. Ongoing consultation with students. This consultation primarily be through close analysis of the SREQ and SUPRA representation.
  2. Review of resources at a University-wide level, through the Senior Executive Group Research Training Committee.
  3. Faculties will publish on their websites information about how students in that faculty can access the various resources outlined in this policy.
  4. Lobbying the Commonwealth Government in order to increase funding for HDR students.

This policy has been developed in consultation with the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA). We acknowledge the survey, campaign and lobby work undertaken by SUPRA in order to represent the students’ needs in this policy.

Essential Resources for Postgraduate Research Students Policy

You can read the entire Essential Resources for Postgraduate Research Students Policy 2012 here.

Policy procedures:

Students are encouraged to:

  • Research the opportunities available and use the resources that are currently provided.
  • Provide feedback to help the University with planning and prioritization of resources. This can be through SREQ, SUPRA or your departmental postgraduate representative, or by . We especially welcome suggestions that can help us provide more value to students using the resources that are currently available.
  • Talk to your supervisor and/or postgraduate co-ordinator about what you think you might need and what is realistically available. These needs will likely change across the duration of your candidature.
  • Apply for resources in a competitive scheme (such PRSS).
  • Investigate what other forms of support are available from the University and external sources.
  • Use resources in a responsible manner for the purpose they were intended.

Supervisors are encouraged to:

  • Discuss resourcing issues regularly with students.
  • Provide information about support opportunities where available.
  • Manage and monitor resources to provide access as efficiently as possible.

Faculties are encouraged to:

  • Manage and monitor resources to provide access as efficiently as possible.
  • Engage with the university-wide review of aspects of resource management.
  • Include discussion of resourcing issues as part of the Annual Progress Review.
  • Publish a list of how students can access resources in their faculty on their website.
  • Provide a means for students to give feedback on resourcing issues in the faculty, such as through student representatives.

The Graduate Studies Office will:

  • Review the provision of resources across the University and work on agreed ways to ensure consistent access to resources.
  • Review SREQ and other forms of feedback to identify key areas of concern.

The Senior Executive Group Research Training Committee will:

  • Liaise with SUPRA on resourcing policy.
  • Help develop new ways of managing resources to get optimum utilisation.
  • Lobby Government to increase resources available for HDR.