In an update this afternoon, Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott told staff that most classes would return in-person in 2022, and revealed that the University was $258 million above its projected student revenue position.
Large lectures scrapped in return to campus
Scott told staff that “being on campus is an intrinsic part of the University experience” and that “students have missed the in-person connections that help to build and sustain our university community.”
Nevertheless, it was announced that large classes of over 120 students will not be returning in-person in 2022, and should instead be offered in a “live, whole-of-unit, online format”, with specific exceptions for practical demonstrations and ‘cohort building’.
A University spokesperson told Honi that “attendance at large lectures has been declining for many years. We are therefore seeking to include more interaction…Classes where the main mode is the teacher talking — whether delivered online, face-to-face or in via pre-recorded video — will be avoided.”
Per the announcement, smaller classes, including all practical classes, “should ideally return to campus” in Semester One next year. Subject to some exceptions, onshore students will be expected to enrol in in-person classes. Students located overseas will be offered online-only classes for at least Semester One.
Despite a vaccination rate in excess of 90% and without any prohibitive restrictions, December and January units will be offered online, with some options for in-person classes.
Massive revenue boost but FASS cuts continue
Over 2021, international student enrolments were 20.4% higher than predicted, with overall student load also 11.9% above expectations. The better than expected results gave the University a student revenue position $258 million above expectations.
Despite the budget bonus bonanza, Scott said that “we will have to exercise some financial caution to ensure that we are able to respond, operationally and financially, to any unforeseen challenges that may emerge.”
The sudden surplus will come as cold comfort to staff in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, who have in recent days increased campaigning against proposed restructuring and course cuts which were originally justified as necessary cost-cutting measures.
An extraordinary letter to management co-signed by 60 FASS professors called the change proposal “short-sighted” and “contradictory,” while academics from across the world have signed a petition calling for the University to abandon its plans to restructure FASS’ historic departments into ill-defined and less autonomous ‘disciplines’.
It remains to be seen whether the University’s improved financial position will weaken its resolve to continue with its deeply unpopular ‘Future FASS’ proposal.
NTEU to vote on move towards industrial action
In other news, the Sydney branch of the NTEU will meet tomorrow to vote on a motion to organise for a Protected Action Ballot “to enable members to take industrial action should it be required.”