Graduate students in need of support will now have to acquire it from a different source.
The Graduate Student Association (GSA) will no longer fund its advocacy service, as of 1 March this year. Instead, it will hand these services to the Student Union Advocacy Service (SUAS).
GSA President Jim Smith has defended the organisation’s continuing importance in graduate students’ lives. “The representation of graduates is the core purpose of our Association,” he said. “We have over 70 affiliated Graduate Student Groups, we regularly raise matters of importance with the university, run day events, organise a ball and other social and networking opportunities for students.”
According to Smith, in 2011, the University awarded SUAS the sole contract to provide advocacy to both graduate and undergraduate students, when the GSA chose not to submit a tender application at the time. He said that the following year, the GSA was not allowed to use the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) to fund their Advocacy service and had to self-fund advocacy from a small pool of funds, as well as compete with the university-supported SUAS service.
University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) General Manager Justin Baré said the changes will impact GSA more than UMSU. “Obviously we will have a role, which will be working with the GSA in ensuring that they get the information that the advocacy service generates, because there’s really important data that they will need in their student representative functions,” he said. “The student representatives from the GSA will be included in the UMSU student advisory group for Advocacy and Legal Services, so that they get to be a part of that process.”
Smith emphasized the importance of having one provider of the service to ensure a “consistency of approach”, but also said the GSA would assist SUAS with cases regarding graduate students.
“We will assist existing students accessing GSA services to gain alternative support,” he said. “Additionally, we will continue to assist and advise SUAS where possible to ensure that graduate students receive high quality advocacy services into the future.”