International and Global Studies (INGS) students are voicing their anger over a lack of communication and clarity regarding the future years of their degree.
Second year students in the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (International and Global Studies) degree, which was introduced for the first time in 2018, say they are unsure of the requirements for the final year of their studies. The final fourth year of the degree includes a compulsory exchange and advanced coursework units, as well as a major research project or internship.
Students have said they were told prior to enrolling that they would be able to complete a semester exchange in fourth year alongside an Honours project. However Acting Degree Director James Curran now says that doing both in the same year is impossible, despite providing no alternative for students who want to partake in a semester-long exchange.
The fact that the compulsory exchange was worked into the degree structure was a major selling point of the degree, students say, who are now left without clear academic progression timelines due to the limited availability of INGS units.
Earlier this semester, 68 second year students signed a petition demanding temporary degree director James Curran organise an information session outlining students’ fourth year academic options, and information about exchange requirements.
“While we appreciate that this degree is new, we believe it is unreasonable that we as students are expected to plan our academic progression meticulously while not having the academic information we need to do so,” the petition read.
Second year INGS student Jaspar McCahon-Boersma, who organised the petition, said the information required to plan future study was simply unavailable.
“I had been applying for exchange a year early, in third year instead of fourth year,” he said.
“I realised that the Faculty had no idea what we were doing for fourth year and I realised none of us had any idea what we were doing either.”
“The information just wasn’t there.”
FASS, along with Professor Curran and representatives from Sydney Abroad, held an information session earlier this month aimed at rectifying student misunderstandings of the degree structure.
In a recording seen by Honi, Professor Curran told students that “if you do want to do Honours, the best way to do it is to do a short term exchange.”
These developments are the latest in a sea of confusion and miscommunication concerning the degree.
Questions were also raised over the requirements of the compulsory language minor. Most language minors, operated by individual schools of languages, require 6 credit points of 2000-level culture units, but confusion towards these requirements has abounded.
“James Curran [says] that if you are an INGS student you don’t need to do that cultural unit, however, it has not been mentioned anywhere in that handbook. So we’re going off the word of the director,” said McCahon-Boersma.
It’s unclear whether it is possible to complete a language minor without the cultural units, given the number of language units on offer at USyd.
In a statement to Honi, a FASS spokesperson apologised “for any inconveniences or hardship” associated with the introduction of the degree, and pointed to the faculty Handbook for information about the degree structure and requirements. The Handbook has no mention of cultural units in the language minor.
The spokesperson said FASS is undertaking checks to ensure correct advice had been given to students.
Students say they were convinced that the Advanced Studies stream would be a beneficial addition to their university education but are now less confident in its promise, seeing it as a profit-driven scheme compromised by funding cuts and understaffing.
“This ties into the fact that nationally we’re seeing universities being treated as companies and businesses rather than places of education,” McCahon-Boersma said. “This is a direct result of that.”