The University of Sydney’s Academic Board has moved to amend the Coursework Policy 2021 to introduce a standardised five day simple extension system, increasing from the two days previously allowed. The change is set to take effect immediately.
The new system will see a central management of simple extensions by the Special Consideration Unit, where student declarations are submitted online. In what’s described as a trust-based framework, medical documentation is not required, but students are “held accountable” for what they submit in an application.
The change comes following a tumultuous few years for simple extensions. As recently as 2015, proposals were put forward to Academic Board to scrap the system entirely. Despite being made University-wide in December that year, some faculties and unit coordinators have placed blanket bans on them, or consistently denied them on personal discretion.
Under the current system, students are required to apply for Special Considerations in order to gain more than two days extension on a due date. The system only covers “exceptional circumstances” like serious injury, illness or misadventure and has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, with some students waiting months for an outcome on their applications. Honi is awaiting comment from the University on their commitment to enforcing the new system University-wide.
Requirements around eligibility and sufficient documentation of evidence have also been noted as unreasonable criteria for students to meet, with many cases falling into the “grey area” between a two day simple extension and Special considerations. As a result, students have been left without any academic support at all: Special Considerations cases being denied, while simple extensions prove insufficient. The change to simple extensions looks to amend this by filling this grey area and relieving the onus of proof for students seeking support.
The proposal also seeks to relieve the pressure the Special Considerations system is under, with the high influx of applications and wait times expected to ease.
Lauren Lancaster, USyd SRC President, spoke about the importance of the change.
“These changes were necessary to combat the crisis of student welfare that the University is playing an active part in. Special Cons has been grossly inadequate for far too long, and these changes will provide material improvement in both the expediency of Special Cons applications and student wellbeing”, she said.
Onor Nottle, USU Board Member and Academic Board Representative, emphasised this, telling Honi “Special Considerations is incredibly overwhelmed, and as a result our students and their health, wellbeing and grades are suffering. This reform will help to alleviate some of that pressure”.