Why uni won’t let wannabe teacher graduate


A FINAL-year Bachelor of Education student is taking her university to court for stopping her from completing her degree and fulfilling her dream to become a teacher.

Shannon McMahon, 23, has been told she cannot graduate from Queensland University of Technology unless she passes a numeracy test, which she has twice failed.

"If I don't pass, I don't graduate. How is this fair? Five years of study wasted, a HECS debt and no career that I have worked so hard to achieve,'' Ms McMahon wrote to the university.

Ms McMahon's claim alleges the university has breached a contract, because when she enrolled five years ago she was not required to pass a numeracy test in order to graduate.

In her letter to the university, Ms McMahon pleaded for an exemption, so she could "graduate and become a productive and effective teacher, contribute to society and fulfil my dreams''.

"Teaching has been my goal since I was young,'' she wrote to vice-chancellor Professor Margaret Shiel in March.

After she failed the numeracy test Ms McMahon was withdrawn from her final unit of study and told she could not complete the unit and graduate until she met the numeracy requirement.

She said when she enrolled in her course she met literacy and numeracy entry requirements.

But in 2016, QUT announced it required students graduating in 2017 and beyond to pass the National Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students.

Ms McMahon's claim says she was not told she could have opted to stay in the old version of the course and be awarded a degree, without having to satisfy the new requirement.

If she had been told, she could have completed her degree by December last year, it says.

Her claim alleges the uni led students to believe they had no choice but to accept the new requirement, and that was misleading and deceptive conduct.

Ms McMahon has now been told she has enough credit points to take an early exit option, but it would not provide a path to teacher registration.

"The goalposts have been moved on me considerably and this is not procedurally fair or consistent with what other universities have done,'' she wrote, court documents reveal.

Ms McMahon, who finished Year 12 with an OP6, worked in childcare and early learning to support herself through university. She says she has a HECS debt of $31,886.

In 2016 she completed a six-month student exchange to the University of Leeds, supported by QUT, and she has been in the uni's softball team for five years.

Ms McMahon is applying for court orders that QUT allow her to complete her final study units and graduate, without her having to pass the numeracy test.

The university told Ms McMahon in an email that she could still sit one more numeracy test, and if unsuccessful she could appeal, but there could be no waiver of the test.

QUT, which said it was adhering to national requirements, is yet to respond to the claim.

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