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University is not a “self-service kiosk”: Protesters oppose 12 week semesters

The pattern of education cuts is a grim “new normal”.

Photography by Vivienne Guo

Students and staff rallied in front of Fisher Library today in a protest called by the Education Action Group to oppose the recent proposal made to the Academic Board to cut semesters down to 12 weeks from 13 weeks. 

As has been noted at previous events, multiple speakers drew links between the proposed 12 week semester and the establishment of trimesters at the University of New South Wales, which was met with significant student and staff opposition before being passed. Education Officer Tom Williams described a pattern of education cuts as a grim “new normal”.

Casual staff member Yaegan Doran refuted the University’s claim that a move to 12 week semesters would be “an education quality initiative”, arguing that “we need to be clear that this is a purely financial point”. Doran noted that this change would harm casual staff and cut their income.

A move to 12 week semesters would see introductory course content sacrificed. Dr Demelza Marlin described the proposal as “written by university executives who have no understanding of what happens in a classroom.”

“I worked at UNSW many years ago, when they shortened the semester from thirteen to twelve weeks… For the teachers, it meant basically performing pedagogical gymnastics to squeeze thirteen weeks of content into twelve weeks without undermining the intellectual integrity of the course.” Additionally, Dr Marlin highlighted the harm that reduced teaching time would cause to students, who would go on to lack fundamental scaffolds for higher-level concepts.

On the effects of further education cuts, Dr Marlin had this to say: “I don’t think this is a self-service kiosk — this is a fucking University.”

Watch Honi’s livestream of the student and staff forum against 12 week semesters on our Facebook page.