Changes to the University’s special consideration process, including the introduction of a dedicated support desk in the Jane Foss Russell student centre, the inclusion of detailed reasoning in application rejections and staff sensitivity training, have been introduced following backlash against the “inhumane” centralisation of the process in semester one.
A progress report of the ongoing review, authored by deputy registrar Brendan Nelson, identifies the “need for more lenience when dealing with death of an immediate relative”. Students will now be able to provide a statutory declaration or “other evidence” instead of a difficult to obtain death certificate. An extension period longer than the single day granted to one bereaved student in semester one will be guaranteed.
The progress report details the extent of problems that plagued the system primarily intended to aid students seeking extensions or changed assessment for illness or misadventure.
Not enough staff were available to process applications after students made 1900 more special consideration requests than anticipated, a total 12 per cent larger than internal University modelling.
Applications were slowed down by the need to manually apply additional conditions that differed between faculties and individual units of study. Fifty-three per cent of applications were subject to these “non-standard rules”. The need for academic staff members to adjudicate 23 per cent of applications further slowed processing.
The length of extensions granted continue to be counted in calendar dates, causing confusion for students in faculties like Arts and Social Sciences whose assessment rules and late penalties are described in working days.
Honi revealed the extent of the centralised system’s flaws in July when academics termed the process “dogmatic” and its treatment of students “inhumane”. Because the system automatically rejected “ongoing” conditions, students were variously denied extensions for failing to identify the “end date” of their terminally ill parent’s life, their depressive episode, and pregnancy.
Photocopies of death and medical certificates were considered insufficient documentation for an application, and no face-to-face or telephone point of contact existed to support applicants.
One student suffering from cancer withdrew from uni after her application for special consideration for the short-term effects of her illness was rejected.
According to the progress report, “The process was not designed to assess and respond to the support requirements…for students with disabilities or complex and ongoing health or wellbeing issues.”
Two hundred and ninety-five appeals were lodged against special consideration decisions in semester one. The review, overseen by registrar Professor Tyrone Carlin, will conclude this month.