Health Check on WAM for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

3 June, 2020

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Most students were relieved when the University finally acknowledged the impacts of the COVID-19 disruptions to their studies and announced a WAM safety net. The University announced that Semester 1 results from 2020 could only improve a student’s WAM, and that 2019 WAM calculations would remain for students whose WAMs did not improve. These changes were made in response to overwhelming demands from students. The whole idea of this was to provide a kind of academic amnesty – and to make sure this semester’s upheavals don’t disadvantage students’ future prospects academically or otherwise.

So it was a 💥rude shock💥 to find that the Medical School had decided that students applying for programs offered by the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences next year are stuck with their 2019 WAMs alone, and will not be able to include their 2020 WAM even where it has improved this year. The decision was endorsed by the President of the Academic Board in an “out of session” decision which has not been subject to broader Board scrutiny or debate.

This decision disadvantages many students who will have improved their WAMs this semester in order to maximise their chances of a place into medicine, dentistry or optometry courses. As a student’s WAM cannot suffer in Semester 1, 2020, the new decision does not provide any new or additional reassurance for those students, but unfairly disadvantages those who have improved.

Grades received in the second and third years of an Undergraduate degree are normally given a double weighting meaning that students currently completing third year subjects are denied the opportunity make significant improvements to their WAM.

Honours degrees must be completed by Semester One to be included in WAM calculations when applying for Medicine, while an ongoing Honours degree counted towards Optometry or Dentistry. As a result of the changes to WAM calculation, Honours at any stage of completion will not be included in WAM calculations, for any of the three degrees. Some students enrolled in Honours with the specific objective of improving their WAM to support applications to MDHS. Additionally, changes to Honours projects mean that they do not attract sufficient credit points to be included in the University’s broader approach to WAM.

Overall, these changes are manifestly unfair and disadvantage students who are able to improve their competitiveness for MDHS applications this month. The University made this decision in the absence of student representatives and has not provided a rationale for how this change benefits students, or why this decision was necessary. It is astonishing that the University of Melbourne has decided to adopt this model given that the same outcomes could have been achieved for students whose results have suffered this semester, by applying the WAM changes announced only a short time ago.

Other Australian medical schools have implemented approaches that allow students to receive the benefits of good results in 2020, or have changed their approach since this announcement was made. We call on the University of Melbourne to rescind its decision relating to WAM calculations for entry into MDHS, to ensure WAMs that improve in 2020 can be used by students.

Sign our petition to demand that the University reconsider their stance and develop an approach which does not disadvantage any student.

Sign the petition 👉