Out Of Time13 September 2017
“We feel like it’s all stick and no carrot,” Education and Research Officer at the Graduate Student Association (GSA), Shirley Jackson, said.
This feeling of all punishment and no reward was shared by a gathering of post graduate students at the GSA forum earlier this month.
The GSA is currently protesting against the Academic Board’s policy changes which took place in June 2017, removing the possibility for research higher degree (RHD) students to extend their degrees beyond the maximum submission date.
As a result, some Master and all PhD students are expected to complete their degrees in two and four years respectively.
The Academic Board has stated that due to the policy, the timely completion rates will increase from the current 53 per cent to 75 per cent by 2020. However, the policy is not expected to be immediately implemented.
This gives students graduating before the 1 January 2018 the possibility of a one year lapse for those with a masters degree, and two years for a PhD.
Such a policy change may have a strong impact on certain demographic groups, such as single parents who are already struggling to balance their academic workload and domestic responsibilities.
Yet, according to one biochemistry PhD student who wished to remain anonymous, the deadline also challenges the University’s competitiveness.
“Our lab-based research will be measured against international universities where students can work on projects for five or more years,” she said.
This could lead students to convert to part-time study, giving them only half the access to essential resources such as their supervisor and funding scheme.
Senior Advocate at UMSU, Michelle Almiron, suggests that the Complaints and Grievances Policy may be a relevant course of action for students who are impacted by RHD timely completion policy.
This policy relates to decisions made at an academic level that may affect students personally, in which case they are encouraged to make a formal complaint to the academic board.
“If they get to 20 or 30 individual complaints then they have to revise the situation,” Almiron explained.
“Some of us with more time on our hands might want to do this to help the others that don’t necessarily have the time.”