Universities across Australia will grant an academic amnesty to students who fail subjects during the coronavirus crisis, as students struggle with disruptions and the transition to online learning.
The University of NSW, La Trobe University and Swinburne University will exclude failed units of study this term from students' academic transcripts and average score calculations, although they will still be charged fees.
UNSW has also joined a number of esteemed international universities including Harvard, Stanford and Columbia in changing grading for many subjects to a "pass or fail" system.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said she recognised "this is a particularly stressful time for students". "While the details will be a matter for each individual institution, all universities are looking at alternative modes of assessment," she said.
UNSW deputy vice-chancellor Merlin Crossley said the university wanted "to acknowledge the situation and reduce the stress of assessment on students, some or many of whom may still be adapting to remote learning or experiencing disruptions".
A spokesperson for La Trobe, in Melbourne, said there were "so many factors that students are dealing with in their lives at the moment, most concerning of which is the financial impacts of COVID-19 as they are losing their casual employment". "This is one way to encourage our students to continue their studies," she said.
Swinburne, also in Melbourne, will allow honours degree students to apply to discount this semester's marks.
Students at the University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and Monash University have campaigned for similar allowances to safeguard against poor academic records affecting their job prospects, which have not yet been adopted.
In an email to students, University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence said: "While we have considered [the pass/fail system] carefully, we will continue to use our existing grading system so we are able to recognise the standard of students’ work in a nuanced way".
The University of Sydney student representative council said it was disappointed about "how slowly and narrowly [the university has] responded to concerns around grading systems and assessments" and will lobby further.
Its president Liam Donohoe said universities should assume "all students are inherently disadvantaged" by the circumstances, whether due to technology access, their home environment, learning styles or loss of structure.
Some students say they have fallen behind on learning as they struggle to maintain motivation, while others have been confused by the rapid digital transition and combination of online platforms being used.
UTS student Annie Walker said "only two weeks into the transition to online learning, I’m already feeling the effect that this is having on the quality of work I’m able to produce".
Another, Joanna Qiao, said she learns mainly "through person to person workshops and actual conversations". "The lack of interaction kills me and my quality of work has gone down so much," she said.
But not all students agree with the "pass or fail" approach, including those seeking to boost their marks to get into honours degrees or transfer programs.
UNSW student representative council president Manu Risoldi said some students have been angered by the university's move. But she said "there's a larger cohort of at-risk students who will positively benefit from this grading change".
Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter
Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments at a glance, the numbers you need to know and what our readers are saying. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.
Source: Read Full Article