Media Releases

Postgraduate Students Going without Necessities and Skipping Class to Earn Enough to Survive


  • Nearly 12% of postgraduate coursework students, and over 9% of higher degree by research students regularly go without food or necessities
  • Over 25% of indigenous postgraduate students regularly go without food or necessities
  • Nearly 40% of postgraduate coursework students and over 30% of higher degree by research students have estimated income less than their estimated expenses


2017 Universities Australia Student Finances Survey found that over 50% of postgraduate students worry about their finances.

Of particular concern is the situation of indigenous students, with 28.5% of indigenous postgraduate higher degree by research students regularly going without food or necessities because they cannot afford them.

According to the report, international postgraduate coursework and higher degree by research students in 2017 reported lower total income than full-time domestic students.

There was also a notable substantial decrease in the median income for international postgraduate coursework students, from $33,700 in 2012 to $21,900 in 2017.

Government allowances were the second main source of income for domestic postgraduate coursework students, with over 18% receiving Austudy, Youth Allowance or Abstudy. Only 16 out of the over 150 postgraduate coursework programs provided at the ANU are accredited for student assistance, which means that most ANU postgraduate coursework students are having to balance challenging studies and work in order to meet their basic needs.

Domestic postgraduate coursework students acquire most of their income from paid employment, with almost 88% receiving a median income of $43,800 for domestic students, and $15,600 for international students.

Despite the fact that more than 56% of domestic higher degree by research students receive scholarships, stipends or bursaries, 80% still engage in paid employment, showing that bursaries are also not enough to meet the needs of higher degree by research students.

The report also relayed the troubling stories of particularly international postgraduate students expressing shame over their reliance on family, and their preference for going without meals rather than demeaning themselves by continuing to take support from others. Additionally, it is clear that international postgraduate students are unable to afford basic medical costs, and are avoiding crucial care, both physical and mental.

Alyssa Shaw, PARSA President, said:

“This report says what PARSA has always known: that stereotypes that postgraduate students are financially secure are damaging and misleading. Many postgraduate students, both domestic and international, are experiencing financial hardship in Canberra, skipping meals and not accessing other essential services like healthcare, because they simply cannot fit into a meagre budget. Skyrocketing rental costs, with this year seeing Canberra take second place in the country in apartment rents, serve to ensure ANU students are consumed by the high cost of living.

 “Not only are postgraduate domestic students less likely to be entitled to Centrelink payments, it’s clear that they are insufficient to cover basic costs. The government should consider allowing more postgraduate students to claim Centrelink, and the rates of these payments must be increased to reflect the real costs of living to ensure that students are able to achieve at university.”

Note to editors:

PARSA provides a range of services aimed at providing support for the specific needs of postgraduate students in relation to both their studies and daily life.

These services include face-to-face consultation with our legal team, student assistance team and access to a range of grants to meet the immediate financial needs of students.

To access these services, please visit the PARSA office, email or call (02) 6125 4187.

For more information about the specific programs and initiatives, please see the PARSA website:

Contact PARSA

PARSA Office
Melville Hall, Building 12
Ellery Crescent
Australian National University
Canberra ACT 2601

Office Hours:

9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays)
Call Us: +61 (02) 6125 4187
Write to Us: