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Higher education should be a public good, not a profit source — 5 August 2020

Hannah Buchan, President
Charlie Joyce and Noni Bridger, Education Public Office Bearers

UMSU was very pleased to hear that our University of Melbourne has finally agreed to pay back staff for millions of dollars owed from years of wage theft.

This was a result of years of organising work undertaken by staff in the NTEU, including last year’s occupation of the Dean of Arts’ office which we were proud to support.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Wage theft is systemic at Unimelb, and across the university sector. It is a business model. Additionally, more than 70% of staff at Unimelb are employed on casual contracts. This is unacceptable.

When staff are underpaid, casualised and mistreated, students have a worse experience. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions.

It shouldn’t have taken years of campaigning, occupations, protests and finally criminalisation by the state government for Unimelb to take wage theft seriously. Chancellery must come clean and open the books and show that they are not continuing to engage in wage theft. We support the NTEU’s recent demands for financial transparency.

Higher education should be a public good, not a profit source. UMSU will continue to stand up in solidarity with staff until this is the case.

🚨University of Melbourne: Protect our WAMs — this is not business as usual. 🚨– 3 August 2020

Hannah Buchan, President
Jack Buksh, General Secretary

 

In Semester 1, over 13,600 students signed UMSU’s petition for a no disadvantage WAM system at the University. As a direct result of this, the University changed its position and we won a system that was fairer for students.

We need your help again. Despite the declaration of a State of Disaster the University has still not made a decision about extending the WAM amnesty into Semester 2, and for winter subjects and year-long subjects, completely ignoring the situation that students are in.  As the COVID-19 situation worsens in Australia around the globe, the University needs to understand that this is not business as usual. Students are under immense amounts of pressure, as well as learning in less than ideal conditions online.   The University needs to act – and it needs to act now.

We need to show the University that our voices are important. Sign the petition, and join the fight.

https://www.megaphone.org.au/p/wam2

Stage 4 restrictions, WAM and financial support – 3 August 2020

Hannah Buchan, President
Jack Buksh, General Secretary

 

 

With the latest restrictions in Victoria, and COVID-19 continuing to worsen around the globe, the University needs to stop acting like it is business as usual and like it is a state of disaster.

This semester is going to be really difficult for students, but the University has the ability to make things easier. We have continued to raise issues around WAM and financial support for students, but we have seen inadequate responses from the University.

We have a meeting with the Vice Chancellor and the Deputy Vice Chancellor this afternoon where we will be taking your voices and raising these issues as a matter of urgency.

Update: International student fees, WAM, Semester 2 – 24 July

Hannah Buchan, President
Jack Buksh, General Secretary

 

 

Students are in really stressful, uncertain times and the University is making this more difficult.

Making international students pay fees well before census date is very concerning, and we are continually pushing this with the University. The University also needs to make a decision about what its plans are with WAM in the winter term and Semester 2 as this is just adding to the stresses faced by our student community.

WAM Update for Winter Term and Semester 2

With the new lockdown restrictions in Victoria, students will again in Semester 2 face challenges which will have significant impacts on their studies. That’s why UMSU is calling on the University to keep the WAM amnesty in place for the Winter Term and Semester 2. Students simply will not be able to perform to the best of their ability next semester – many are in difficult financial positions, in difficult study environments or simply not able to learn as effectively online as they did in person. We have written to the President of the Academic Board with this request, and we will keep you posted on any response.

Any students who need assistance should get in contact with UMSU – we’re here to assist everyone to get through this difficult time.

Education should never be a Debt Sentence – 19 June 2020
Hannah Buchan
UMSU President

 

Overnight, the government has announced massive hikes to the cost of future degrees. 

Future students hoping to study law and commerce degrees will face a 28% fee increase, while students studying humanities degrees will face a staggering 113% increase.

The justification for this fee increase is a carrot-and-stick approach to funnel students into industries it believes will have the most job growth. This is a ridiculous and unfair attack on students. While the costs of some ‘job-ready’ degrees will be lower, this move is at the expense of hundreds of thousands of young people who have chosen to study degrees that the government doesn’t deem worthy enough.

Students should never be forced to take massive amounts of debt in order to gain an education. This is going to disproportionately effect students at the University of Melbourne because of the Melbourne Model. Increasing student fees will not fix a funding crisis.

UMSU unequivocally believes in free education for all students. We will oppose this package every step of the way. We will be posting ways to get involved in this campaign in the coming days — follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date.

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

3 June, 2020

Sign the petition 👉 https://bit.ly/HealthcheckOnWAM

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 👉 https://bit.ly/HealthcheckOnWAM

UMSU Supports the NTEU National Day of Action – 15 May 2020

Noni Bridger, UMSU Education Public Affairs Officer.
Charlie Joyce, UMSU Education Public Affairs Officer. 
Hannah Buchan, UMSU President

 

At the last meeting of UMSU Students Council, a motion was passed to endorse the NTEU’s National Day of Action to Save Higher Ed Jobs and support the public and online actions that will be taken by the NTEU during the NDA. UMSU reaffirms its commitment to supporting the campaigns of the NTEU, especially those undertaken by the University of Melbourne NTEU branch. UMSU has been lucky to enjoy a close working relationship with the NTEU at the University of Melbourne, and fully endorses the union’s campaign to extend Jobkeeper to currently excluded uni staff, support higher degree research students with universal extensions, and calls on the government to fund the $5 billion shortfall in higher education funding. The motion also calls for the establishment of a joint action in the form of a University Assembly of all staff and students at the University of Melbourne. UMSU will work with the University of Melbourne NTEU on developing this University Assembly and create a joint campaign combining staff and student demands. 

On 1 May, the University of Melbourne NTEU branch passed a motion stating they would not accept any cuts to wages or conditions on campus and, in the event that staff are asked to vote again on the terms of their enterprise bargaining agreement, to launch a ‘Vote No’ campaign. UMSU is resolved to support democratic and grassroots decision making of the NTEU on our campus and believe that members are best placed to make decisions about their contracts and should be supported in doing so. We will support any campaign by the University of Melbourne NTEU to protect the rights, wages and conditions of all their members – inclusive of all permanent, casual, sessional, and graduate student workers on campus.

The conditions faced by students and staff alike are caused by massive underinvestment in universities as a public institution and by the creeping neoliberalisation of universities undertaken by executive management. More than ever it is important that staff and students understand that their fight is the same fight. Just as students shouldn’t accept a lower quality of education, staff should not experience lower quality conditions and pay. At the University of Melbourne there has been no fee relief offered to students so it is quite astounding that they’ve elected to lay off staff and ask those remaining to take pay cuts. The University executives have taken an elective 20% cut to pay, however a 20% cut to $1.5 million is still a salary of $1.2 million.

UMSU encourages students to attend and support the NTEU NDA on 21 May and join in on events and actions in the lead up to 21 May and on the day. The future of higher education is at stake and it has never been more important for staff and students to work together to take back our universities and support one another as we fight for a better university.

 

 

Update on Emergency Student Support Fund – 13 May, 2020

Hannah Buchan, President
Jack Buksh, General Secretary

 

 

🛑 Update on the Emergency Student Support Fund and end of semester assessment information 🛑

We’ve heard that many students who applied for UniMelb’s Emergency Student Support Fund are experiencing very long wait times in accessing their payments.

We are greatly concerned about this and encourage any student in this position to contact UMSU Advocacy with your case number, so that they are able to follow up with the University on your behalf.

We are also greatly concerned about the lack of information that has been provided to students about their upcoming end of semester assessments.

If you have been told how your end of semester assessments will be conducted — be it online, in an open book or if you’re being proctored — please let us know.

We have until 25 May present your concerns to the University.

End of Semester Assessments – 8 May 2020

Hannah Buchan, President
Jack Buksh, General Secretary

 

We’re getting close now to the end of semester and so many of you, like us, will be getting final exams and final assessments. The problem is a lot of students haven’t been told what those arrangements are. The University, faculty by faculty, the information has been coming and going. 

We have two concerns. The first one is that students obviously don’t know what’s going on, but more importantly we’re concerned about how the university will be conducting these exams. We’re worried the University will be using proctoring software like ProctorU or Cadmus which has been used at other universities at the moment, but has very severe implications on your privacy and your security.

The second thing we’re concerned about is that students who are relying on technology for exams now, whether it’s through zoom or through proctoring software. They may be unfairly impacted through technological failures, for example if you’re doing an exam and the zoom crashes, what’s going to happen to you then? So we want to make sure the University is putting things in place that make sure no student is unfairly disadvantaged.

This whole situation is very unfair for students, and students just need answers about what’s going on with their assessments. Students are rightly stressed and anxious about what’s going on. So that’s why we need your help to gather information about what’s happening in your assessment.

UMSU Education is launching a portal which you can report how you are doing your assessments this semester, be it online, in an open book or if you’re being proctored. We need to know, and we need to present this to the university, because this just isn’t fair.