Ooft – where to begin.
Things go wrong at uni at the best of times, and UMSU’s Advocacy Service is here to help you navigate the often complex world of policies and procedures that govern how you and the University interact. Our advice on a range of issues you may normally face at uni is here. However, this is no ordinary time, so we have scraped our inbox and the social media comments and messages you are sending us for some general answers to the big ticket items on your minds right now. Don’t forget – if your concerns aren’t addressed here – at all or sufficiently – then please get in touch here!
It appears some optional classes and pracs might still be offered this week – but if you are being told you must attend (face to face on online) classes or assessment up until 30 March – you should report it to the Dean of the Faculty and let us know. We are communicating all of your concerns to the University regularly.
It is essential to get advice from the University’s course planning team to make sure you are making a properly informed decision. You need to remember that reducing your study load now might extend the time it takes to graduate. That means you’ll need a new Certificate of Enrolment (CoE) – and you should make sure you request a new CoE before the current due date expires. However, there may be ways to avoid extending your course – and you can discuss a plan for your remaining subjects and catching up by completing winter and/or summer subjects with the University’s course advising team.
However, at this stage the University of Melbourne is not committing to anything for semester 2. That means it remains a risk you might get stuck back home and not be able to continue your studies online in semester 2. We have raised this issue with the University and will keep pushing for them to address it so you have clarity and can make informed decisions.
In the current context, the University has taken on board UMSU’s recommendation that documentary requirements for special consideration be relaxed. Currently the University will accept a Statutory Declaration explaining how your study has been affected. This includes anyone who is unwell during the semester but does not seek medical advice in order to avoid contact with contagion or burdening the health system. You won’t need an HPR form if you do a statutory declaration.
Other reasons connected to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis may be accepted – it will be assessed on a case by case basis.
You can obtain a statutory declaration here. You can get it witnessed by a chemist or at your local police station or by anyone on this list. Before you fill it out, we recommend contacting us to get some feedback on your explanation to make sure it addresses the critical issues.
If things change, and it becomes impossible to get a statutory declaration witnessed, the University will need to consider waiving this requirement.
We are also aware of potential changes to the laws about witnessing documents which may allow for electronic witnessing. We will keep you posted on this.
Some other unis are offering students support – such as a technology bursary, crisis support scholarships, and emergency relief to pay for essentials. We will continue to press this with the University for more financial and practical help for students.
We are also keen to work with students, and to continue to pressure the University to address the financial hardship being experienced by many students.
Moving towards online modes of teaching and learning will no doubt have its challenges. As subject coordinators begin to release material for their courses through the LMS, it is important that students let their lecturers and tutors know how they are finding the offerings – we hope they will be interactive, stimulating and informative.
As this experience evolves it will become clearer whether there is a basis for any kind of fee discount or other offsets, or potentially other forms of consumer protection compensation. As such, we encourage you to take note of situations where the online delivery of teaching has been unsatisfactory, as this may be used in future if individually requesting compensation.
We would also encourage you to raise these issues as they happen with your relevant subject coordinators as it is this feedback which will no doubt assist in improving delivery material online. For these reasons we are requesting the University give consideration to a discount or other reduction or offset to course fees in lieu of the usual experience.
The idea of a pass/fail grading system has become a common theme in your contact with us – however it is also contentious among students – as many of you writing to us asking for a pass/fail grading scheme are telling us why they don’t want it. While many of you are worried your marks are going to take a hit, there are also many who are hoping to improve their WAM this semester, so a blanket pass/fail grading would be problematic for them.
We think there should be other ways to protect results this year.
Some universities have instituted a system where students can choose to receive a "no record COVID-19" result, giving students a choice about whether they wish the full range of marks to be available or not.
We are aware that La Trobe university is guaranteeing that any failing grades this semester will not be recorded as such on transcripts or in the WAM – although this does not protect against a lower but still passing grade as a result of this semester’s disruptions.
Another idea would be that the University provide students with a guarantee that their results from this semester, and any teaching period which is substantially affected by COVID-19, are given a significant reduction in weighting which would minimise any negative impact on your WAM, and that the University sets a threshold below which any impact on your WAM will not be recorded – that is a minimum WAM no matter what.
UMSU is taking these issues to the University and keeping the pressure on to find a way of minimising detriment to students as a result of COVID-19. Our President is in communication with Chancellery every day, and we will keep students posted on developments.
These are just some of your questions at the moment – if we haven’t addressed it here please contact the Advocacy Service. If we can’t help directly, we will raise your concerns with the University, as we have with all of these issues above.
Check your student emails from the University and read the UniMelb COVID-19 website here.
Read Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to find out about state-wide policy and regulations here.
Look at the Victorian Health and Human Services website here.