Monday, August 25, 2014

The following article was written by Winthrop Professor Hans Lambers, Immediate Past Head of the School of Plant Biology as the Last Word for UniNews. This article was blocked by the Vice Chancellor's political advisor from appearing in UniNews. The article entitled "Will UWA make it in the top 50 by 2050?" puts forward a number of issues that relate to the decisions by the university that impact both students and academics within UWA.

Will UWA make it in the Top 50 by 2050?
By Winthrop Professor Hans Lambers

Just a few years ago, UWA was delighted when a dream came true: to get into the Top 100 by UWA’s centenary on the Academic Ranking of World Universities.  A longer-term aim was to make it in the Top 50 by 2050 on whatever the appropriate measure might be by then.  I want to first analyse what allowed us to make it in the Top 100 of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU:, and then return to the title of my Last Word.  

The ARWU website states: “ARWU considers every university that has any Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists, Highly Cited Researchers, or papers published in Nature or Science. In addition, universities with significant amount of papers indexed by Science Citation Index-Expanded and Social Science Citation Index are also included.”  Given the weighting of Nobel Laureates, it is obvious why UWA shot up in the ranking when Barry Marshall and Robin Warren won their Nobel Prize, since Barry was a staff member at the time, and a previous student of UWA.  UWA had a fair number of Highly Cited Researchers, and brought in significantly more over the past decade, allowing an increase in our score from 17.9 (2008) to 25.8 (2012).  In addition, our score for publications in Nature and Science increased over that period (10.5 to 13.3), and so has the score for number of indexed papers (41.2 to 44.2).  Together, this allowed for our position in the Top 100 since 2012. 

Clearly, moving into the Top 100 did not simply “happen”, but was the result of a clear strategy underpinned by a budget.  Highly Cited Researchers were actively recruited, assisted by the Vice Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund.  Likewise, it was relatively easy to bring in Highly Cited Laureate Fellows, because the component of their salary that was not covered by the Australian Research Council came “off the top”.  All of that has changed, and that salary component now has to be covered by the School hosting a Laureate Fellow who is already on their staff.  That is a significant financial burden, because that staff member no longer significantly contributes to undergraduate teaching.  However, it is disastrous if a Laureate Fellow is recruited from outside UWA.  How is a School supposed to find a Level E salary?  Some support is available from higher up in the hierarchy, but the point remains that it is seriously difficult for a School to attract a Laureate Fellow from outside if even a fraction of a Level E salary has to be covered.  Don’t we want to stay in the Top 100?

Our website claims that UWA “is committed to enrolling and graduating the highest quality students.”  That sounds great, but is it still true?  Our strongest postgraduate students are those that win an International Postgraduate Scholarship (IPRS).  They contribute significantly to our research output, our international standing and ARWU ranking.   Schools used to receive funding for these top students while they were enrolled.  The new funding model has wiped that funding off the Schools’ budgets, and support for the research for these top students must come from elsewhere.  Are we really serious about enrolling the highest quality students?

UWA appears to be keen appointing an ever-expanding cohort of senior administrators, thus decreasing the funding for Schools that are actually generating the university’s income through their academic activities.  If a School is to make an appointment, it wants to make sure it is academically sound as well as financially viable.  Reducing funding for Schools kills the goose that lays the golden eggs.  Where are the business cases to justify appointments that reduce the funding at School level to a mere trickle? 

If we seek to get into the Top 50 in 2050, or stay in the Top 100 over the next five years, UWA needs a budget that supports a solid strategy.  With so many well-funded universities around the globe competing for the Top 100, it will be easy to slip out of the Top.  It will be tough to stay in the Top 100 and move upwards, but it can be done, if UWA makes the right decisions.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Last Monday, the universities Scholarships Committee voted to phase out the UWA Safety Net Top-Up scholarship that is given to all APA and UPA scholarship holders.

This scholarship was originally created in recognition of the financial struggles that are faced by higher degree by research students at UWA, valued at $3500 per year. This amounts to roughly $67 a week in addition to the APA or UPA stipend. $67 a week does not seem to mean much to the university however, for the HDR students receiving less than minimum wage for the amount of work they do, the difference is immeasurable. The reason behind this budget cut is to save $2.7 million over the next three years from the University Postgraduate Awards budget that is ALREADY nearly $400k in surplus, making this a savings measure only for savings sake.

The phasing out of this scholarship will begin in 2015 when a $29,000 cap will be placed on the APA/safety-net top-up combination. The Safety Net Top-Up will now only top up the APA/UPA to $29,000 rather than be a flat $3500.

The APA is indexed with inflation. CPI is expected to be 3% and the APA expected to increase to $26,154 in 2015. For 2015 the total value of the APA with a Safety Net Top-Up would have been $29,654 prior to last Monday’s meeting. With the cap imposed, all APA and UPA holding students will be $654 worse off in 2015. This amounts to a 2.2% pay cut for all HDR students on an APA or UPA. From 2015 the $654 and any further increases in the APA will be absorbed by the university for undisclosed savings.

The APA will be expected to exceed $29,000 in 2019, meaning from 2015 to 2019 all APA and UPA holding students will be facing a pay freeze. Neither a pay freeze or a pay cut of any sort would be tolerated by any university staff, but they are enforcing a 2.2% pay cut and four year pay freeze on APA and UPA holding students unquestioned. This truly is a case of the university taking from the poor to give to the budget bottom line.

The University of Western Australia consistently flaunts being a member of the Group of Eight and its ranking within the top 100 universities of the world. Neither of these accomplishments would be achievable without the hard work of the research postgraduates. There are more research postgraduates than academic research staff at UWA, resulting in a publication rate that would be impossible to achieve on the research staff alone. When the income from these publications is considered along with the income to the university for each completed higher degree by research, a cut to the take home income of students of 2.2% is unconscionable.

The good standing, ranking, income and reputation of a research intensive university relies heavily on the performance of the higher degree by research students and a pay cut of this level does nothing but show how little the university cares about students and research compared to the budget bottom line.

The university executive wants to be internationally ranked in the top 50 by 2050 but with this disregard for the welfare of its postgraduate students I expect we will be lucky to be in the top 250 by 2050.

As a representative of the UWA postgraduate research students, please feel free to email me with any questions or comments at

Winter is coming,

Peter Derbyshire.

Monday, June 2, 2014

PSA Quiz Night

On the 15th May, we had our annual PSA Quiz Night at the UWA Guild Tav! It was a fun night filled of laughter and brains thinking hard for the answer to the next quiz question.

The competition was fierce with the quiz teams almost neck and neck in the beginning but as the quiz topics got more interesting, the questions got more harder which tested a lot of contestants. At one part of the night, we got to enjoy eating yummy pizza on the night thanks to us ordering from Broadway Pizza.

Later, we had the $1 coin toss for the honey Whisky as shown below. There were many gold coins  tossed at the Whisky but funnily enough, one of our PSA Vice Presidents won the prize with his coin being the closest distance to the whisky.

We also had a winner for a surprise postgraduate raffle where the winner won a VIPG Golden Ticket to all the PSA events that run for the rest of the year which does include the Cocktail Party. She sure had a smile on her face.

The UWA Tav was definitely packed with lots of eager contestants and even though there was a first, second, third and wooden spoon winners, everyone in the end seemed to have fun night. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

More awards and grants in 2014!

As part of our service to the postgraduate students of UWA, we provide funding for a number of awards to assist in your study and research. The number and value of the awards changes each year depending on our financial situation. For this year, we are pleased to announce that we have been able to increase the number of awards this year, and increase their value!

We will be offering the following awards and grants for 2014 below:
  • 15 travel awards at $900 each (increased from 9 travel awards at $850 each in 2013)
  • 6 fieldwork awards at $900 each (increased from 3 fieldwork awards at $850 each in 2013)
  • 9 small grants at $350 each (increased from 3 small grants at $300 each in 2013)

For the first round of awards and grants, applications are now OPEN!
Applications will close Monday 26th May.
Further, we have amended the application requirements. In previous years, applications for the above awards required an academic transcript so that the PSA could verify your enrolment. However, the President felt that the full academic transcript was an excessive requirement, and potentially unfair to students who had studied at the university for previous degrees. We now just require a confirmation of enrolment which can be obtained from Student Admin showing that you are currently enrolled in a postgraduate course. 

More great news this year involves the introduction of two new awards, 
small awards (for short courses like first aid training or statistics courses) and large awards (for interstate and possibly international courses like masterclasses, workshops, summer and winter schools). We are still in the process of finalising the details for these awards, and applications for them will not take place during the usual application rounds for the travel, fieldwork and small grant awards.

To top it all off, we are also offering not one but two leadership awards this year, and they will each be worth $250 (up from $200 last year). Applications for these awards will still require an academic transcript. We are accepting applications for the leadership awards throughout the year.

For more details in regards to the application process and the due dates for each round for the awards and grants above, please see the link below:

Good luck with your application!

Monday, April 14, 2014

First Ever Blog Post for 2014

Hello everyone and welcome to the first blog post by PSA for 2014!

Just to refresh the memory of some, what exactly is the PSA? We are the association that represents the postgraduates of the University of Western Australia (UWA). The PSA president this year is David Raithel. Any more details in regards to the rest of the PSA committee, check out the PSA committee link on our sidebar. 

This year we are running several new events in addition to our usual events.

The events usually run are:

·         Connect (first Thursday of every month)

·         Family Fun Day (A Saturday during second semester)

·         Annual Quiz Night (This year on May 15th!)

·         Cocktail Party (During the first week of November)

Some new events are:

·         Engage- a monthly morning tea (third Thursday of every month)

·         Stargazing at Perth Observatory

·         Board Games Night (April 22)

The PSA also shares information on UWA events and news that is relevant to postgraduates, mainly though our facebook page ( and our weekly newsletter (

Hope you have a lovely day and for those who celebrate Easter, Happy Easter!

Friday, November 29, 2013

PSA Conference Travel Award Report

Sports Medicine Australia: Asics Conference for Science and Medicine in Sport
Phuket, Thailand, October 22-25th 2013

Sports Medicine Australia has a tradition of selecting a ‘boutique’ conference venue every two years. With the Hilton Arcadia in Phuket selected as this year’s venue, everyone attending could not have asked for a more beautiful location with white sandy beaches accompanied by crystal clear waters. This year’s conference was attended by 480 international attendees, which translated into over 150 oral and 50 poster presentations. As per expected, the amount of high quality research was evident. Clearly this piled up the pressure on myself to deliver a presentation of the same calibre. Fortunately, my presentation session was on the first day and when my time came, all things went as planned, leading to a productive discussion in the subsequent Q&A.

Although a huge sigh of relief was lifted after my presentation, I soon realised that this was when all the ‘actual’ work started. I found myself running between sessions in order to listen to specific presentations that were relevant to my field. Personally, the best part of the conference was listening to the opinions of other researchers, thus allowing myself to learn more about the different experimental designs that others have adopted to explore similar variables. Most importantly, I was fortunate enough to engage in discussions with researchers from Universities in Japan and the East Coast of Australia. Current signs appear promising, and I hope to be collaborating with them in a future study.

Another highlight of the trip was the series of workshops that were made available to attendees. I registered for one titled: ‘Publishing your work’. This workshop was an excellent resource and will come in extremely handy in the subsequent months, as I am about to complete my thesis. Clearly, the opportunity to sit down with the Editor in Chief and three Associate Editors of a highly ranked Sports Science Journal does not come by often. The Editors provided tips on what they call: ‘getting past the first hurdle’. They highlighted the importance of a sound abstract, a well-constructed hypothesis and a conclusion that accurately reflects the results, and most importantly answers the hypothesis.

In summary, the opportunity to attend this conference will play a huge role in my development. It has provided me with networking opportunities and information that will come in very handy in the near future. I strongly advise anyone who is considering attending an international conference to do it. Sometimes as a PhD student, we are ‘stuck in a bubble’ and there is so much more that can be gained by meeting fellow researchers.

Marc Sim

Monday, October 21, 2013

What is an AGM and Why should I attend?

The PSA Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be taking place on the 31st of October at 4.30pm, in Law Lecture Theatre 1.

The PSA AGM has three main purposes:

   1)      The PSA President and Treasurer give reports.
Want to know what the PSA has been doing for you all year? Want to know how we have spent out budget? Now is your chance to hear all about it, and ask some questions.

   2)      Vote and discuss any big issues in regards to postgrads and the PSA.
Most issues the PSA Committee and executive can deal with on their own, but occasionally we want input from the rest of you! This year we will be making some *minor* changes to the Constitution (the big ones went through at the SGM- but we made some typos that need to be corrected).
We would also like to ask you all what YOU want out of your PSA. What should we be doing for you in 2014 and beyond?

   3)      Elect the 2014 PSA Committee.
Usually nominations will run before the AGM. Those that nominate for positions will then be elected at the AGM. This year we only had singular nominations for 2014 PSA Committee positions so many positions are already filled. However, there are many positions that received no nominations and have therefore not been filled. At the AGM we are allowed to take nominations from the floor to fill position on the 2014 PSA Committee.
Positions that we still have open are:      Media Officer,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer, Events Officer,
Off Campus Officer,
Arts Faculty Representative
Education Faculty Representative
ALVA Faculty Representative
Law Faculty Representative
MDHS Faculty Representative
Ordinary Committee Members (two)

Need a little incentive to come to the AGM? We will have providing free pizza at the AGM!

AND the November Connect will be shifted to be AFTER the AGM on October 31st.  The kicker- if you want to come to the Connect, you have to attend the AGM first- we will be ticking off names, and giving out arm bands to enforce this.