Research Training Program – Frequently Asked Questions for students

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This page provides information for students at an eligible higher education provider (university) who are applying for or are in receipt of an RTP place, based on the Commonwealth Scholarships Guidelines (Research) 2017 (rules).

The RTP is a single flexible pool of funding to support both domestic and overseas students undertaking Research Doctorate and Research Masters degrees.

From 1 January 2017, the RTP will replace Australian Postgraduate Awards, International Postgraduate Research Scholarships and the Research Training Scheme.

While your scholarship might change in name, all your entitlements will be unaffected.

Section 1.6.50 of the rules states that a university must offer each continuing student an RTP Scholarship in a form that does not disadvantage the continuing student and provides at least equivalent support to that provided, or that would have been provided, through predecessor Australian Government programs.

Further information on how each form of scholarship recipient will be transitioned to the RTP can be found in Section 1.6.50 of the rules.

Section 1.6.1 of the rules states that a universitymust only provide one or more of the following types of support to an RTP Scholarship recipient:

  • An RTP Fees Offset pays for the tuition fees of a higher degree by research (HDR) student that would otherwise have been paid by the student. This requires that a university to fully offset tuition fee applicable for a student. This is not a stipend.
  • An RTP Stipend to assist students with their living costs while undertaking a higher degree by research.
  • RTP Allowances to assist students with ancillary costs of a higher degree by research (HDR). This includes relocation costs to undertake a HDR, HDR thesis printing and academic publication costs and health cover costs for recipients and their dependents.

Applications for a new RTP stipend, allowance or fees offset need to be made directly to a participating university. Universities are responsible for managing the RTP application, selection and offer process. Students need to approach the scholarship office at their chosen university for direction on how to apply for the RTP and key deadline dates.

The rules provide the legislative basis for universities to deliver the RTP scheme.

Information on commencing a postgraduate research degree and university course choices can be found on the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website. The Study Assist website is another source of information for students seeking Australian Government assistance for financing tertiary study.

Section 1.6.55 of the RTP Guidelines sets out the requirement that the Commonwealth's contribution is acknowledged in research publications by RTP students where related to a research project.

The acknowledgement must include mention of the student's support through an "Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship"

An example acknowledgement statement would be, "This research is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship."

Basic student eligibility requirements to receive an RTP Stipend, RTP Fees Offset or RTP Allowance is covered in Section 1.5 of the rules.

For overseas students please note that there is a cap of 10 per cent on the amount of RTP funding that can be used to support overseas students.

Please note that universities are responsible for the application and selection processes for RTP Scholarships, so you will need to contact your chosen university's postgraduate research office directlyto discuss how to apply.

The Study Assist website provides a one-stop shop for all information about Australian Government assistance available to help finance tertiary studies. The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website provides students with a broad range of information about Australian universities, course options and postgraduate research.

No. To qualify for an RTP place a student must be undertaking a higher degree by research (research doctorate or research masters) for which at least two-thirds of the student's time should be spent on research work at an approved university.

Coursework degrees do not qualify as a higher degree by research (refer section i.v.ii of the rules).

Stipend recipients receive an annual stipend to assist with general living costs. The RTP stipend rate is effective from 1 January 2017 and will be updated every year. All RTP students must receive at least the published minimum annual RTP stipend amount from 1 January of the relevant calendar year, unless the student has commenced late, suspended or terminated in that year (refer section 1.6.10 and 1.6.45 of the rules).

The stipend rate is available on the Research Training Program webpage.

There are no restrictions that prevent a student from applying for a RTP place at more than one university, or more than once at the same university.

There are no restrictions that would prevent someone without First Class Honours from receiving support from the RTP.

In determining its selection process, a university may consider previous study, relevant work experience, research publications, referees' reports and other research experience. Ultimately the application, selection, and offer process for the RTP is at the discretion of the university.

There are no restrictions that would prevent someone who has previously completed a higher degree by research from receiving support from the RTP.

In determining its selection process, a university may consider previous academic experience as a factor. Ultimately the application, selection, and offer process for the RTP is at the discretion of the university.

There are no restrictions that would prevent someone who has previously received support from the RTP.

In determining its selection process, a university may consider previous academic experience as a factor. Ultimately the application, selection, and offer process for the RTP is at the discretion of the university.

Students are not prevented from applying for addition financial support or awards.

However under section 1.5.(2), a student needs to be aware that, to continue to be eligible for an RTP stipend place, they must not be in receipt of an equivalent award, scholarship or salary related to their course of study that provides a benefit greater than 75% of their annual RTP stipend rate.

If a student thinks this condition may apply, they should approach the university research office to discuss the option of suspending their RTP place (refer to section 1.6.45 (5) of the rules and the relevant university's RTP Scholarship Policy).

If a student is awarded an additional scholarship to undertake their degree, only the equivalent component of the additional scholarship should be considered. For example, if the additional award or scholarship comprises multiple components, including a monthly living stipend, travel allowance, establishment allowance and insurance, only the living stipend component of the award should be included to determine if the value of the award exceeds 75% of the annual RTP stipend amount.

It is the student's responsibility to ensure they continue to meet the eligibility criteria and conditions for all awards they receive, including their RTP stipend place.

A student should contact their chosen university's postgraduate research office directly to discuss any questions.

Universities must include provisions that identify the circumstances in which itwill approve a student awarded an RTP Scholarship undertaking work outside the higher degree by research (HDR) subject.

Students should check the university's RTP Scholarship policies and seek approval from the university before commencing work outside of the RTP.

The RTP stipend is paid for educational purposes. Under section 51-10 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 scholarships paid to full-time students for educational purposes are treated as exempt income

Based on published information from the Australian Tax Office on similar scholarships, part−time student stipends will continue to be taxable and that fee offsets for part−time students will continue to be tax free.

This is based on the ATO class ruling (CR 2003/84) which considered the offering by Bond University of PhD Research Scholarships comprising a stipend for living costs and a tuition fee waiver. The ruling was clear that fee waivers were not considered income.

Given the strong parallels with the ruling and RTP arrangements in the rules, our understanding is that RTP Fees Offset will not constitute income and will therefore not be subject to income tax.

The department therefore expect that the arrangements in place for RTP Fees Offset, Stipend and Allowances will have no additional impact on part−time students compared to the existing Research Training Scheme, International Postgraduate Scholarships and the Australian Post Graduate Awards schemes.

Note that all students are responsible for ensuring that they copy with their tax liabilities.

The rules do not preclude an RTP supported student studying offshore while enrolled at an Australian university.

There are no geographical eligibility restrictions for students receiving RTP scholarships for either domestic or overseas students.

The student would need to continue to meet the Student Eligibility Requirements.

This also applies for overseas students. For overseas students, they must meet visa requirements specified by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). However if a student is studying offshore in an accredited higher degree by research (HDR) course at an Australian university there may be no DIBP requirements to comply with.

Yes. The RTP provides block grants to universities to support the research training of both domestic and overseas students undertaking higher degree by research.

RTP support is provided for a minimum of three years and up to a maximum of four years full-time student load at the discretion of the university for a Research Doctorate. For a Research Masters student the period of support is a maximum of two years at a full-time student load).

A university cannot provide for an extension of a student's RTP support beyond the duration of support stated above. However universities may have their own additional support policies. A student should contact their university's postgraduate research office directly to discuss available funding options to extend support.

Yes. Leave entitlements include recreation, sick and parental leave entitlements.

The application of leave entitlements, particularly for part-time students, may be subject to specific university policies. Leave is also subject to the approval of the university. Students should contact the university's research office for advice on conditions and how to apply for leave.

A student may transfer from one university to another university, subject to the new university accepting the student and agreeing to the continuation of the RTP. There is no transfer of funding between providers so the new university must have sufficient RTP funds available to support the student.

Ultimately the decision to grant approval for the transfer of an RTP student, and the process by which this is managed, is at the discretion of the two universities in question.

Provisions for which a university will transfer a student and maintain their RTP must be included in their RTP Scholarship Policy (refer section 1.6.45.8(b) of the rules).

No. Applications for the RTP need to be made directly to a participating university.

There are no restrictions that would prevent someone who has previously completed a higher degree by research at an overseas university from receiving support from the RTP.

Ultimately the application, selection, and offer process for the RTP is the responsibility of the university.

The rules do not prevent a student from receiving additional financial support or awards. However, a student needs to be aware that, to continue to be eligible for a RTP stipend place, they must not be in receipt of an equivalent award or scholarship related to their course of study that provides a benefit greater than 75% of their annual RTP stipend rate.

If a student thinks this condition may apply, they should approach the university research office to discuss the option of suspending their RTP place.

Universitiesmay award RTP Fees Offsets to domestic students although the process used must accord with the rules and the fairness requirements in the Higher Education Support Act 2003, and be detailed in a university's RTP Scholarship Policy.

Universitiesmust only award RTP Fees Offsets to overseas students as a result of a competitive selection process. The nature of a competitive process is to be determined by a university although it must accord with the new rulesand the fairness requirements in the Higher Education Support Act 2003,and be detailed in a university's RTP Scholarship Policy.

Students supported by the RTP scheme are not automatically entitled to the Child Care Benefit because they are not "receiving financial assistance directly from the Commonwealth" as required by A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999, subparagraph 42(1)(b)(iii). This requirement is consistent with subparagraph 85(BB)(1)(d) of Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Act 2017 which will commence from 1 July 2018.

A student may still be eligible for Child Care Benefit for reasons that do not relate to their RTP scholarship. RTP students should need to contact the Department of Human Services who can assess their eligibility for the Child Care Benefit scheme. The Department of Human Services can be contacted by calling 13 61 50 between 8.00 am and 8.00 pm Monday to Friday AEST, by visiting the Department of Human Services website, or by visiting your local Service Centre.

Further information about RTP eligibility and conditions can be found on the RTP main page.