Acting President’s Report – Protecting the right to part-time study

At a recent Undergraduate Studies meeting, the Committee approved a request from the Sydney College of the Arts to remove the option of part time study for an offered honours course. When the faculty’s representative was asked why this was necessary given the necessity for part time study as an option on equity grounds, they the suspension of study rates were too high for their liking.

So there it is. Yet another stark reminder that we attend a university that is more concerned with how they rank in the latest international tertiary education poll (yes Usyd, we get it and there is no need for yet another Facebook status about it) than the welfare of its students. The importance of a part time study option for undergraduate students is well documented, yet the University of Sydney continues to drag behind on this part with faculties such as Law and Medicine only offering part time/reduce load study to students with exceptional circumstances at the Dean’s discretion.  The practise of applying to the Dean in and of itself can be incredibly daunting or intimidating for students who require part time study to complete their degree. It gives Deans the power to interpret ‘need’ as they see fit and gives
them absolute and unquestionable control over a student’s life. Part time study, particularly in coursework-heavy degrees such as Arts/Law or Medical Science/Medicine, the option for open part time study is crucial, as it means students are allowed to prioritise and comfortably work around work, health and other responsibilities over an arbitrary time frame of acceptable course completion.

The University of Sydney prides itself on being an institution that supports its students and gives them ‘flexible study options’ but a closer look at Senate and Faculty resolutions reveals this is not the case. In fact, Undergraduate classes have not run past 6pm in recent memory which makes most undergraduate study completely inaccessible for prospective students who are carers, live with a disability or are working. I know it’s hardly a shock to most of us that the University is caring less and less about the welfare and wellbeing of its students, but it seems the higher the University rises in the international ranks of tertiary education, the less they are trying to hide it.

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