Aussie Uni Moves To Three-Term Semester And Students Are Pissed

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is the first Group of Eight universities to adopt a three-term year -- but students aren't happy about it.

Moving to three 10-week terms (otherwise known as the Stanford model) rather than two 13-week semesters means that the academic year is increased by six weeks.

This move cuts the summer break by four weeks and halves the breaks between semesters.

Students are also given the option of a five-week summer term.

UNSW believe that the system will allow students greater flexibility year-round as well as giving them the opportunity to graduate earlier.

University of New South Wales library. Source: Instagram.

The university also notes that the system will lead to further alignment with Northern Hemisphere university calendars, "creating global experiences and new global partners".

Instead of four subjects per semester, students are now doing three, meaning that they finish nine a year rather than eight.

The semester change also gives students the opportunity to use the campus year-round rather than experiencing long shut-downs.

Angela Griffin, president of the Student Representative Council, told 10 daily that the primary feedback the Council is receiving from students is a feeling of being overwhelmed by the increased workload.

"Pushing that amount of content into 10 weeks has been quite stressful for both staff and students," she said.

"Although there are less contact hours on campus, there are more off-campus hours that students need to do to keep up".

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Griffin also noted that the shortening of the summer break has reduced employment opportunities as well as opportunities for regimented internships.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) released a newsletter criticising the move, stating that the change will "likely impact negatively on work/life balance, contribute to increased stress and mental health issues for staff and a less family-friendly workplace due to reduced flexibility."

NTEU also believe that the change has been made with limited consideration for parents and those with other carer obligations.

The trimester model has also caused considerable dissatisfaction at other universities in the past.

The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) runs courses in both trimester and two-semester models.

Students at UTS have expressed their anger at the system in the past, with one Facebook user commenting on a UTS student page that the time allotted to complete heavily-weighted assessments is considerably shortened in trimesters.

"In my course, we had 7-8 weeks to complete assessments worth 20-30%. Now we have assessments weighing 50-60% due in the next 4 weeks. How does that make sense?"

UNSW will also now be misaligned with other universities for holidays, which impacts social opportunities outside of learning hours.

Griffin notes that well-being is also impacted merely by the fact that UNSW students are forced to stay in Sydney and study while their friends may be take overseas holidays.

"University isn't just about learning, it's also about fun and being a young person," she said.

The UNSW Student Representative Council will be taking a list of demands to the university on June 26 after they analyse a broad student survey to understand the key issues the trimesters have caused.