Not The Smartest Idea – A Forced Return to Campus
The Australian Government – via its ESOS Act (supported by the HE Regulator TEQSA) - has decided that a return to campus for students (from July 1) is the best thing to do. The idea is largely driven by a concern for real estate and retail – certainly not the health and welfare of students.
A case in point
A case in point – my own institution ran a weekend program for postgraduate domestic students in Adelaide with 12 students attending. Within the first week post-delivery 60% had contracted COVID and were isolating from work and other commitments – what a disaster!
COVID/FLU/COLDS are currently running at pandemic levels and the evidence is directly in front of us – yet the bureaucrats (and the larger universities in particular) insist that coming back on to campus is the best approach – absolute nonsense, bordering on irresponsible!
A better alternative - hybrid
A far better approach – and the one adopted by my own institution – is providing the option for students to come on campus if they wish to do so – but taking the necessary precautions of wearing a mask (optional) and reducing contact outside of the classroom (mandatory).
The HE Regulator states – only if it is ‘safe and practical to do so’ – and quiet honestly it is neither.
Students wish to remain online
Each trimester (over the last few years of the COVID pandemic) my institution conducts a student survey asking for an indication of enthusiasm to return to campus as opposed to remaining on line. The most recent set of outcomes (T2 2023) suggest 97% of postgraduate students wish to remain on line and 98.5% of undergraduate students wish to remain on line.
The qualitative reasons given include safety, the fact that COVID is still alive and well, ease and convenience (practicality) and efficiency.
A considerable issue of course is the quality of the online delivery with students repeatedly acknowledging this through the student feedback on units (SFUs) consistently averaging 4.3/5.
Talk is cheap
Considerable time and effort has been placed on wellness as a key issue across the Sector – yet here we have a bureaucratic pressure to ignore the physical wellbeing of students and encourage them to put their health at risk – this is particularly poignant in the winter months – and return to a face to face environment.
Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer at Group Colleges Australia.