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Last-minute course cuts shake up FASS degrees, students and staff left in dark

Ostensibly an administrative slip-up, the cancellations follow a long line of attacks on arts education by University management and the federal government.

Abrupt cuts to several units of study in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) have been reported by undergraduate students already enrolled in them for Semester One in the week before its commencement. Students say the subjects were available on Sydney Student’s enrolment system before being pulled “very suddenly” from timetables earlier in the week, slashing options for degree progression and leaving many scrambling to re-select and schedule subjects. 

The cuts have affected departments including Government and International Relations, International and Global Studies, English, and Anthropology. 

Students and staff have been left largely without explanation for what is seemingly an administrative slip-up, with cancelled subjects like GOVT3999: Terrorism and Organised Crime still appearing in online handbooks. 

International and Global Studies Director Chris Hilliard stated in a Canvas message on Tuesday that Monday was “the first time” staff learned the subject INGS2062: Dynamics of the Global Economy was available for enrollment. 

In fact, it was “never going to be offered in 2022 and should not have been available in Sydney Student”.

Taught by the Department of Political Economy in the School of Social and Political Sciences, the decision to pull INGS2602 from 2022 enrolment occurred at least mid-last year according to Hilliard, as the School “no longer had the capacity to teach outside their own major”.

“We’re still trying to find out how this has happened […] this is frustrating for the staff involved,” wrote Hilliard. 

However, SRC Education Officer Lia Perkins says the last-minute cuts “are symptomatic of a wider problem, that the university is increasingly dictated by corporate management rather than academic staff and students.” 

One Anthropology student says they were not alerted to the cancellation of ANTH2625: Culture and Development prior to an “ambiguous” email denoting timetable changes a week ago. They received an email on Friday stating the unit had been cancelled “due to recent changes to teaching arrangements.” 

“It means I am gridlocked and have no choices for my second year,” they told Honi. There are no other 2000-level options available for Anthropology in semester one. 

A third year Anthropology student says the subjects ANTH3603: Sea of Islands: Anthropology in Oceania and ANTH3618: Indigenous Australians were also cut without explanation at the start of the week. Many including herself were forced to enrol in the two available units, one of which was at capacity (though was later extended).  

Similarly, the unit ENGL1007: Languages, Texts and Time was pulled last week, as the faculty reportedly failed to replace its coordinator, Dr Nicholas Riemer, who was appointed as NTEU branch president late last year. 

The unit was one of two available to first year English students for the semester, compared to at least three or four options in previous years. 

“There are always going to be some last-minute changes to curriculum,” Riemer told Honi, “but when the faculty’s offerings have been stripped back as far as they have, the impact of any one of these is obviously greater.”

Since 2020, the university has made hundreds of staff redundant, engaged in wage theft, and threatened to cut up to 30% of FASS subjects

“Over recent years austerity measures implemented by the Liberal government have resulted in a gutting of higher education,” says Perkins. “Thousands of casuals have lost their jobs and the quality of our education decreases with every course cut.” 

The USyd Education Action Group will hold a protest against the wider cuts to tertiary education on Thursday, 24 February at Fisher Library.