Students angry their degree has been cut with no consultation

By Dominique Lakis

International Studies students were left shocked by changes to their degree, lack of open consultations and the timeline for implementation by 2023. 

UNSW students enrolled in the Bachelor of International Studies were invited to a last-minute information session hosted by the Arts, Design and Architecture (ADA) faculty in May. But it raised more questions than answers about degree changes.

Fifth-year International Studies and Media student Holly Heng said:

“I feel as though the faculty either dismissed student concerns or sidestepped questions and the absence of honesty from the ADA faculty management is disappointing”.  

First-year International Studies and Media student Laura Veasey is strongly considering dropping the International Studies component of her degree due to the changes. 

“At this point, the easiest thing to do would be to cut the extra two years on top of my Journalism major, save up to learn a language and travel externally,” she said.  

During the information session, fifth-year International studies and Media student Violetta Katsaris asked “what would make UNSW stand out from other universities in Sydney [if the proposed changes go ahead]? I believe we are one of, if not the only university, that offers straight International Studies and the ability to pair it with a number of other degrees”.  

In response, an ADA executive staff member said, “the new Bachelor of Social Sciences will equip students with the necessary qualifications for any government job”.  

On April 15th, Tharunka revealed the ADA faculty was planning to remove the Bachelor of International studies at UNSW. Following this on May 4th, International Studies students were invited to an online information session. In the email invitation, International Studies Course Convenor Nikki Beaumont wrote:

“You may have heard from students involved in consultation or working with our academic staff that UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture is currently reviewing its undergraduate programs, including the Bachelor of International Studies.  

“The purpose of this review is to update our UG offerings to increase choice and flexibility, make our degrees structures easier to navigate, and improve your experience”.  

This was the first official communication sent by the faculty about the changes.  

The changes have been in the planning phase since February 2022 and were recently approved by the Academic Board to be implemented from T1 2023.

Following Tharunka’s article, UNSW’s Education Collective organised a meeting to strategise  in opposition to the degree changes. ADA Deputy Dean Bruce Watson and Senior Strategy Manager Jennifer Perkins unexpectedly attended, sparking tensions. 

In response to an Education Collective question about whether the faculty would cut any courses or staff, the Deputy Dean said:

“I have worked here for 20 years, and I have never sacked anyone, I don’t know anyone that has been sacked”.

Under the changes, the Bachelor of International Studies will be merged into the existing Bachelor of Social Sciences from 2023. The mandatory overseas exchange and 24 units of credit for language learning will be removed, which ADA executive staff state “will reduce the complexity of the degree rules”.  

Eleven other degrees in the ADA faculty will be affected by the changes and merged into just four degrees; Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Media.

To date, the ADA faculty has not held any further student consultation sessions. A Student Feedback Form has been opened on the ADA website where students can give general feedback about their courses.   

An Access and Equity Ambassador anonymously informed Tharunka that UNSW began advising high school students as early as mid-May to be aware of the new changes when enrolling for 2023.   

“[UNSW is] telling high school students to hold off on putting ADA subjects on UAC once it opens because of these changes,” they told us.   

“[We were told to] advise students to keep an eye out on official communication and wait until after Term 3 when there’s more clarity”.

According to the ADA faculty’s timeline, Term 3 is when they will begin to market and launch the new degrees.

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