University students left with no options after funding cuts

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The changes brought about by the pandemic have left Australian university students in the lurch, leaving one with the lowest satisfaction rating in the country.

Australian university students say the standard of their education has suffered over the past two years, with staff and funding cuts leaving them with far fewer study options.

“People who started in 2020 didn’t really have a choice when it came to their classes,” Bridget O’Donoghue, an arts and education student at Macquarie University, said after Macquarie cut more than half of their available arts majors.

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Faced with declining revenues in 2020, UNSW Sydney opted to merge its Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with Art and Design and the Built Environment.

“I feel like the quality has gone down,” said Harrison Gourlay, a final-year undergraduate media student at UNSW. “It definitely got worse.”

The university reported nearly 500 full-time job losses in 2020, just a year after their controversial implementation of terms earned it Australia’s lowest student satisfaction rating.

Gourlay said while the pandemic has caused unforeseen difficulties with online learning, the university’s mismanagement of its term system is equally to blame.

“Three years later, I’m still getting emails telling me to be accommodating because my classes are condensed to fit the terms,” ​​he said.

Changes since the start of the pandemic have also hampered the administration of universities, students have reported.

“At Macquarie’s,” Ms O’Donoghue said.

“They cut so many artistic staff, I called the student center and was told they would take four weeks to get back to me.”

Similarly, at the UNSW student hub, “it’s a 14-day wait for an email,” according to Mr. Gourlay.

Constant setbacks for university students, particularly in the arts, have left them ill-prepared for the job market.

“Even with an internship in the industry, it feels like they’re not trying to be particularly helpful, they’re just trying to cross off a checklist,” Gourlay said.

A Macquarie spokesperson said the university had “reviewed our curriculum to offer a selection of high-quality, interdisciplinary and cross-cultural units with an emphasis on the future employability of students” and pledged to create “new structures within student support to provide a consistent quality of service and support to our students”.

A UNSW representative said that in the three years since switching to terms, the university had “implemented a number of improvements”, which they said had led to “an impressive increase of student satisfaction in 2021”.

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