AUT University students are in an uproar over a sudden decision to start the academic year again from scratch after the coronavirus lockdown and then keep students studying until Christmas.
The university has announced a radical plan to re-start the year’s teaching for all of its 27,000 students in eight four-week blocks, with one block for each academic paper, running from April 27 to December 20.
Holidays will be reduced to two one-week breaks in July and October, and the academic year will end six weeks later than the previously planned finish on November 6.
All papers will be taught again from scratch, disregarding lectures already given since the academic year started on February 24.
AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack and student president Sisifa Lui said in a joint statement yesterday that the change would support the shift to online teaching which all universities have had to make during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“With block learning you can immerse yourself in one paper at a time. It’s a more focused approach to learning and assessment,” they said.
“Each paper will be delivered consecutively in a four-week block of study, with a total of eight blocks in 2020. Say ‘goodbye’ to the stress of juggling multiple papers and having assessments due at the same time.”
No details have been announced about which papers will be taught in each block, but further “updates” are promised on this and on “how we will be recognising your learning so far in 2020”.
Almost 1000 students have signed a petition against the plan, many saying that they rely on working in the holidays and part-time through the term to pay for their studies.
“Depending on their block timetable I might have to drop work, which for many students, myself included, is something they rely on to live and get to uni. Plus doing seven months straight with two one-week breaks is stupid. Lots of people are gonna burn out,” wrote student Loren Kelly on the change.org website.
Jacob Pietra wrote: “My university has seriously made it difficult to have a normal school experience. I am also not scheduled to be in the country during the extended semester. It is not necessary to introduce an innovative approach during a pandemic! We need stability!”
Eva Lok wrote: “We are only two weeks behind on our learning, it doesn’t make sense to extend the academic year by seven weeks and to RESTART all our papers (regardless of whether or not we’re getting credited for those papers).”
Petition organiser Ryan Bircham, a student ambassador and president of the AUT computer science club, said the change did not suit students with year-long projects or taking more than the standard number of papers.
“One of the main reasons I chose to attend AUT was because of its Capstone projects, or its Research and Development projects, where I got to spend a year working with an external client. Others got placed in internships, or researched innovative technologies,” he said.
“Obviously year long projects will not fit into a four week block. The university has failed to address this.”
McCormack and Lui were both fielding other queries and complaints this morning. Students’ association vice-president Mariner Fagaiava-Muller texted: “As you may understand, the both of us [himself and Lui] are in and out of comms with students/staff at the moment.”