Semonsters: An Alternate Uni-verse

By Twoey Jones


Somewhere out there, an alternate universe exists. UNSW has always had a trimester model, and is currently switching to a new model with two teaching periods each year that they call… “semesters”. In this alternate universe, one thing remains the same – the SRC is up in arms about any form of change.


Why adopting semesters will have terrible consequences for students


Increased Study Load


Currently, I take three subjects in a 10-week period. Under a semester model, a standard load will be four subjects in 13 teaching weeks – 14 if you include the mid-semester break. Despite what UNSW would have you believe, the addition of a mid-semester break won’t mitigate the increased rates of burnout that such a drastically longer teaching period will cause. Combining this with the increased difficulty of balancing four courses (and four exams in a two week exam period) in a semester will only lead to increased student stress and anxiety.


Less Available Study Spaces


Increasing the number of subjects from three to four, while decreasing the number of teaching weeks from 30 to 26 per year, will inevitably lead to more students on campus at any one time. This is going to put additional strain on student facilities – both study spaces and classrooms. There’s no good reason for the university campus to be unused for half of the year, yet this is what is being proposed.


Less Flexibility with Centrelink Benefits


At the moment, a student can still be considered full-time for Centrelink purposes if they are enrolled in just one subject for a trimester, as long as they enrol in six subjects over the course of a year. For students who balance university with work, live out of home, or have family commitments (especially students who are parents or carers), being able to lighten their workload for a couple of months is a necessity. Under a semester model, a student will be forced to take at least three subjects in a semester – which will hit students already struggling with university the hardest.


Longer Degrees


Currently, I can accelerate my studies and finish ahead of time (particularly if I am studying a combined degree). Under a semester model, students will be compelled to stick with their study plans, with little option to accelerate. For students who are paying rent, this is just going to increase the financial burden of study – who wants a three-month summer break when it’s costing at least $200 per week just to keep a roof over your head? I’d rather be getting through my studies and moving into a full-time job that alleviates the cost of living stresses sooner.

Lower Quality of Extracurriculars


Student societies can currently use the three breaks each year to plan events for the coming trimester. Introducing semesters would limit this to the summer break and the mid-year break, forcing students to balance their extracurricular commitments with an increased study load and fewer breaks. There’s no way that students will be able to plan events, workshops, and activities of such a high standard under a semester model, given their current reliance on the flexibility and number of breaks of the trimester system.


Casual Staff will Suffer


A reduction from 30 to 26 teaching weeks will mean less work for casual university tutors, who already receive far less pay than their lecturer counterparts. Data released by the Australian Tax Office this year showed that the annual income for a university lecturer in Australia is $98,980, while for a tutor, it is $26,230. A reduction in workable hours, proportional to the reduction of teaching weeks, will lead to a potential pay cut of nearly $3,500 per year. Semesters will unfairly target staff who are already on relatively low incomes.


It’s clear that the higher-ups at UNSW are putting students last under this proposed semester model. Make your voice heard by joining the “Stop the UNSW Semonster” campaign today.