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Advanced Studies degrees mired in confusion and uncertainty

Only 80% of students will be able to do either honours or placement due to “staff redundancies and excessive demand.”

Advanced Studies students are concerned about a lack of clarity and communication from their department about their degrees.

Initially being told they would have internship and honours opportunities in their fourth year, students in the Politics and International Relations stream have voiced concerns regarding a lack of transparency about their degree progression.

One student, who took to the USYD GOV & IR Students Facebook page, was left confused about the advertised internship program and whether this would conflict with the honours program.

“I don’t feel like we get enough [information],” they wrote after contacting several stream staff members.

Other students felt as if the advertised opportunities — which made the degree desirable in the first place — were misleading.

First year student Gian Ellis-Gannell was taken by surprise when she found out she could not do honours if she took up an internship. 

“[I] feel disappointed,” she said. “The internship was one of the major factors in my choosing the degree.”

Out of frustration, another student transferred out of the degree into a regular Arts/Advanced Studies course, saying: ”I realised that there wasn’t any benefit of staying.”

Furthermore, staff redundancies and cuts to courses have meant that students’ course offerings are completely different to what they signed up for.

Several elective subjects that were offered last year have been discontinued in 2021, including GOVT3652 – Environmental Politics in Australia, GOVT3901 – Digital Politics, and GOVT3998 – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Politics and Policy.

Jaspar McCahon-Boersma, a fourth year student in the International and Global Studies  stream, said that several students “have had their graduation pushed back by six months or longer” due to incorrect information being provided and units “completely vanishing in new handbooks.”

Due to the overwhelming student concern, student representatives for the Politics and International Relations Advanced Studies stream Jamaica Leech and Nicole Pan met with members of the Government and International Relations faculty.

They were told that only “80% of students will be able to do either honours or placement in the future years” due to “staff redundancies and excessive demand.”

For the 20% of students that miss out on honours and placement, they will still be able to complete their degree, but will just do so with “conventional units of study.”

 “The current movement to have student voices heard within the Advanced Studies degree structure is an extension and expansion on its origins in 2019,” said McCahon-Boersma, who has previously been involved in petitioning for clarity regarding the International and Global Studies stream.

While he says that the issue was originally a small cohort of students seeking clarification on specific issues, it’s now grown into a faculty-wide issue. 

“Our teachers are doing significantly more work than they’re paid for, and the transition to the Advanced Studies system has meant that they’re putting in significant amounts of unpaid administrative time to help us deal with issues that they’re not adequately supported to handle.”

“It’s become quite clear now that the bulk of the authority to rectify these issues lies with the Faculty (FASS).”

Politics and International Relations Advanced Studies students can anticipate further updates from their student representatives in the coming weeks.