It is hard to believe that April is here already.
February seems a world away when we were enjoying O'Week and many – like me – were looking forward to ending the week with the great fun of O’Fiesta.
We are in a very different place now here in Australia, although we know that our Chinese students have been experiencing the impact of coronavirus in China since at least January. Thankfully life for these students appears to be getting slightly easier, and their example provides us all with hope for the future.
It is particularly pleasing to see that the rate of new cases in Australia is slowing, and let’s hope we continue to see this in coming days and weeks. This gives us some reassurance that the rate of change we have all experienced in the past weeks will also slow down.
I know we have a way to go, but with what we – and you– have achieved in the past three weeks, I am confident that we are well positioned to respond to this challenge and move forward with the semester.
Semester 1 Grades
There has been much debate about the use of Non-Graded Passes (NGP) in Australian universities. Last week I invited you to provide your input to that debate.
The response was extensive, both in emails to me directly, but also to staff and student representatives in Colleges and FUSA. I would like to particularly acknowledge the FUSA representatives for the way they have brought issues affecting students to our attention.
The responses fell into three categories:
- Those in favour of the use of NGP as a way to reduce uncertainty and alleviate concerns about their study
- Those against NGP due to the de-motivational impact it may have on their study
- Those against NGP due to the desire or need to improve their Grade Point Average. Whilst NGP topics are not included in calculation of Grade Point Averages, very many students had strong arguments for why this semester was critical for them to achieve their goals.
The Deans Education from every College, the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching Innovation) and other senior staff responsible for ensuring the integrity of our grading system gave this extensive and careful consideration and have recommended the following approach, which I have accepted.
- All topics will retain their current grading system this semester. If your topic is a Pass/Fail topic, it will stay a Pass /Fail topic; If a topic is a graded topic (ie differentiated pass grades as Pass/Credit/Distinction/High Distinction) it will stay a graded topic.
- Any student who fails a topic will be given the opportunity to demonstrate they have achieved the Topic Learning Outcomes through a further piece of assessment.
- After release of the grades, any student may make an application to have any passing grade from a topic conducted this semester changed to a Non-Graded Pass.
Each College has an Examination Board which reviews and approves the marks and grades for all topics taught in that College. The Examination Boards will pay particular attention to the distribution of grades in each topic this semester compared to previous years. Only increases in marks will be approved for students in a topic if any adjustments are deemed necessary and appropriate.
As previously advised, Central examinations will not be held this semester and alternate arrangements are being made. Other assessments may also need to be amended. Academic staff are currently reviewing the Statement of Assessment Methods for each topic to ensure that assessments for each topic can be completed without students attending campus. These will be reviewed by each College for approval and communicated by email and on FLO as soon as possible.
Census and Withdrawal Dates
There has also been much debate about census dates in different universities.
Flinders Semester 1 census date is 3 April – which is later than used in many universities - and will not change this year.
All students will be able to withdraw from a topic up to 15 May 2020 without a fail grade being recorded.
This decision has been made to give us all a point in time from which we can move forward with the remainder of semester. It gives the University certainty, it gives the staff certainty, and whilst I do not underestimate the challenges ahead for you all, I feel it also gives you greater certainty.
The decision to keep our census date at 3 April also means that our University scholarships can be approved from next week for those students who are waiting for this much-needed support. This also applies to the recently announced Flinders Student Support Package described again below.
Flinders Student Support Package
You may have read the Vice-Chancellor’s announcement this morning of the $12.5M additional package of support for students, including cash payments, a new scholarship program and the waiver of the Student Services and Amenities Fee for this semester.
In case you missed it, information on the package is available here. The aim is to reduce your financial stress, so that you can continue to focus on your studies.
There have been many government announcements recently of increased subsidies available to students and workers including increases in AusStudy, AbStudy, JobSeeker and the introduction of JobKeeper payments. However not all students who are experiencing hardship are eligible for these government subsidies.
From next Monday, 6 April, students who are facing urgent and immediate hardship can apply through FUSA for Emergency Support of up to $500. The Student Support FUSA website here has more details and is where you will be able to access the application form from Monday.
The new Matthew Flinders Scholarships will also open up for applications next Monday 6 April via the University scholarship website.
Our other supports available to you can be accessed through our new Online Hub and Flinders Support Network. These are designed to assist in every area of potential need, from study, to mental wellbeing and accommodation.
Stay well everyone, and if you can please reach out to those around you who may need help.
Professor Clare Pollock
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students)