By Harrisen Leckenby and Anh Noel
Tharunka sat down with incoming PGC President Anthony Sunjaya to discuss his plans for the postgraduate community 2023.
Q: What is the role of the Postgraduate Council (PGC) at UNSW?
Sunjaya: The PGC represents the approximately 30,000 postgraduate students at UNSW. The PGC is the voice of the postgraduate community to university management and the broader community.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve with the PGC next year?
Sunjaya: My big vision is to better the postgraduate experience at UNSW by building the postgraduate culture at the university. Through this we hope that students will be proud to be a postgraduate student at UNSW. In 2023 the PGC will focus on:
- Providing support to students at the beginning of their studies
- Supporting students during their studies through social events and
- Supporting students when they graduate by building connections
between students in their final year and UNSW Alumni.
We will achieve these goals through events and advocacy. Our four guiding C’s are: Curate. Connecting people to each other. Collaborate with societies and clubs & Celebrate our cohort.
Q: What are the challenges of building a postgraduate culture?
Sunjaya: One of the main challenges, but also a strength, is the wide range of diversity of postgrads at UNSW. For example, postgrads range from those with and without families, those who had continued with being a postgrad right after their undergrad to those with decades of professional experience as well as those undertaking their degrees part-time and full time, on campus and from off campus sites. Not to mention other diversity in lived experience be it from where they come from, interests etc. However, I strongly believe that being a university-wide postgraduate focused student body, the PGC is strongly positioned to support building this culture of belonging among postgraduates together with relevant UNSW entities.
Q: We see that the PGC team has worked hard for the increase in HDR stipend in 2023. What is the HDR stipend and why is it an important to the postgraduate experience.
Sunjaya: HDR stipends are scholarship allowances a higher degree research student (M.Phil or PhD) receive during the period of their degree. Prior to the increase, the stipend rate majority are receiving is at about AUD 29 thousand each year. For most, this amount is inadequate to cover the rising living costs in Sydney resulting in a substantial number of HDRs needing to do part-time jobs, draw on savings and loans to cover the gap. We appreciate that the University acknowledges this through this increase in stipend which would improve the postgraduate experience as it would allow HDRs to focus more on what they are at UNSW for, doing high quality research that will have a positive impact on society, and provide them room to undertake professional development activities that would benefit them in future.
Q: What is one area the PGC could improve on?
Sunjaya: Next year we will focus on alumni engagement. The PGC has been doing a lot of events and advocacy work on issues, such as gendered violence at UNSW but we would like to increase our engagement with our alumni and connect them to current students.
Q: How can students get involved with the PGC?
Sunjaya: By following our Facebook, UNSW PGC! We also have an Instagram account and you can connect with us via the Arc website. We also publish a monthly newsletter delivered to your UNSW Student inbox.
Q: What is your favourite thing about the postgraduate community at UNSW?
Sunjaya: Definitely the diversity! We love meeting students from different backgrounds. There is always something different to learn, or hear about when you are on campus. I also particular love learning about the research of other postgraduate students and what they are studying.
Q: Last year, we’ve seen you organised many events to uplift the postgraduate experiences (such as workshops with PSS, Future Students Open Day, Canberra Trip), what events do you have in mind for 2023? Are there any new events that you would like to introduce?
Sunjaya: We will continue to run events such as the PGC Research Awards, Open Day and trips that were successful last year.
Several new initiatives this year include – a Harmony Day Celebration in March, Monthly Social Mixers (every last Friday of the month), Morning Teas (every Wednesday 10-11AM at the PGC Lounge) and a potential PGC HDR Student Conference later this year. Beyond this, we want to contribute more on the policy front including supporting the implementation of the gendered violence initiative and improving the grievance reporting process at UNSW.
Q: How will you engage the different campuses of UNSW, such as Paddington and Canberra?
Sunjaya: For the first time, The PGC will start next year with a full team. Paddington and Canberra have a representative and both will be recruiting a team in their respective campuses. The PGC will be organising trips to and from the Canberra and Sydney campuses in 2023.
Q: Why has it taken this long for PGC to begin its term with a full team for both respective campuses (Paddington and Canberra)
Sunjaya: I would note that the PGC’s structure where there are campus officers is new and had been in effect only since 2021. Last year we had difficulty in receiving expressions of interest for the Paddington role which might relate to the lack of PGC exposure in the campus, something we hope to rectify this year.
The PGC had also appointed our inaugural Chief Marketing Officer, Head of Project Management Office and First Nations Advisor, emphasising our commitment to enhancing dissemination of events and policies relevant to postgrads, good governance. and greater engagement with First Nations students.
Q: How can postgraduate students seek help from the council?
Sunjaya: The contacts of the PGC’s Executives are listed in https://www.arc.unsw.edu.au/pgc/about-us#more. Postgrads are encouraged to reach out via direct email or through our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter) at UNSW PGC.