University semester stress
SOUTHERN Cross University sociology lecturer Sandy Darab has never seen so many students breaking down in tears in her office.
Dr Darab blames a new three-semester teaching calendar for her students’ increased stress, and is one of many staff at the university waiting for an external review due this month they hope will recommend a return to the old two-semester system.
However, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Bill MacGillivray, defended the new system, which began early this year and shortens breaks between semesters, saying the changed calendar offered students more flexibility.
“The new three session teaching calendar has been introduced as a way of providing increased options for students, such as the ability to spread their study load,” he said.
Dr Darab, a National Tertiary Education Union executive member, said staff had voted to reject the three-semester teaching calendar and return to the old two-semester structure.
“Everything is on compressed time, and we’re so out of sync with other universities,” she said.
“Academic staff don’t have time for research, and this is the first year I haven’t written a paper.”
Dr Darab said students were working hard, but were struggling to fit their jobs, families and relationships around the increased study load.
“Many are applying for special consideration or extensions, or dropping one unit per semester,” she said.
Prof MacGillivray said fewer students were withdrawing and more than 2000 had enrolled for the third semester.
“There is clear evidence that, despite the changes to the calendar and concerns raised by some members of the staff and students, there is generally greater sat-isfaction among students this year,” he said.
Dr Darab said union members would take industrial action if the third semester was not dropped.