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Arts faculty considers reducing long-form essay assessments

Staff have criticised the suggested move as a cost-saving measure.

Students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) could be seeing less essays in their future assessment schedules.

Several staff have confirmed to Honi that in a staff meeting on Thursday, Dean of FASS Professor Annamarie Jagose said she believed the faculty should move away from its over-reliance on long-form essays as a method of assessment.

This is in line with the University’s ongoing plans to diversify assessment in order to “reduce over-assessment” and “improve the realisation of the University’s assessment principles.”

Staff have criticised the suggested move away from the essay-focused model, calling it a cost-saving measure.

A staff member who attended the meeting said that “the statement came in response to questions about the legitimacy of the piece rate and what [Jagose] plans to do with the wage theft it produces.”

Currently, USyd staff are paid a ‘piece rate’ of 4500 words per hour when marking assessments — any time spent beyond this is unpaid. Staff have repeatedly asserted this is insufficient time to properly mark work, which means many do unpaid labour.

A spokesperson from the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) told Honi they believed Jagose wants to rely on other assessment forms — which could include multiple choice and short-answer exams — to speed up the marking process instead of paying staff for the full time it takes to mark essays.

They also noted that the move would be “pedagogically disastrous” for FASS students.

In a statement to Honi, a University spokesperson said that “Professor Jagose is an advocate for assessment diversification – not primarily as a way of saving money, but as a more inclusive approach to assessment that sees students engage with a range of assessment methods.”

They noted that this includes long-form essays which “remain key to learning outcomes in the humanities and social sciences.”

More to come.

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