Image description: A view of The Ref at UWA, from the perspective of Oak Lawn. Students sit under the large trees on the lawn, and mill around in front of The Ref. Graphic text, which says ‘Updates’ and ‘Semester Two’, overlay the image.
By Courtney Withers
Exams are over, the birds are chirping, and no alarms are going off every five minutes. That’s right, it’s the end of semester, and UWA students are on their winter break until July 27.
Whatever you may be doing on your break – finding more pears on Animal Crossing; going down south, or ‘douth’ as the youth say; or sitting at home and doing absolutely nothing – may I have your attention for just a few minutes? There have been more important updates for students regarding semester two, and I think you will want to hear them.
Price Hikes: UWA’s Response
An email was sent to students on July 3 from Vice-Chancellor Hollander and UWA Guild President Bre Shanahan. It discussed some important updates surrounding the return to campus and timetabling for semester two.
They began by congratulating students on adapting to the situation with online exams and other changes made in semester one, thanking them for their resilience.
They went on to discuss the recent university fee proposals by Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, and how this would affect current and future UWA students.
“I know many of you will be keen to know what this means for you and your studies,” Vice-Chancellor Hollander and Bre Shanahan said.
“A number of grandfathering clauses (exemptions) mean that the impact of this announcement will not be felt immediately, and definitely not in 2021 and 2022.
“The current funding arrangements are assured for all of our existing students. As more detail arrives, we will keep you up to date.”
The talk around fee changes for university degrees comes after the Federal Government announced on June 18 their plan to lower the cost of “job-relevant” courses, and increase the price of humanities, commerce, and law degrees.
The UWA Student Guild has stated that they are very much against this proposed change, and joined the Curtin Student Guild on June 20 for an open meeting to discuss these changes.
Semester Two at UWA
The email continued with more updates for semester two; specifically, updates around the return to campus, and changes to timetabling.
Hollander and Shanahan said that the safe return to campus is of the upmost concern, and that there is work being done on the semester two timetable to ensure a ‘“COVID normal semester” without too much disruption”.
As Western Australia is currently in Phase Four of eased restrictions – with the likelihood of Phase Five coming into action on July 18 – UWA will be welcoming students back to campus for semester two.
The easing of WA’s restrictions is very much in-line with UWA’s four-phased return to campus, facilitated by the Recovery Management Team. We will be entering into the fourth and final phase on July 23.
“There is still a complete focus on health and safety practice on campus,” Hollander and Shanahan said.
“These include high hygiene standards (remember to wash your hands and cover your cough and stay home if you feel unwell) and increased cleaning, but there will be no restrictions in place preventing you from coming onto campus.”
With the state also moving into the fifth phase in the next couple of weeks, the teaching venues on campus will be back to “full capacity for Semester 2”.
They also stated that the results from the ‘UWA COVID-19 Student Response Survey’ indicated that “two thirds of students who responded said that they would be happy to continue lectures online, but the majority of students indicated they would like to return to campus for tutorials, labs and other small-group classes”, with UWA having the intention to accommodate as many students as they can.
Although many students are keen to return to campus for at least some face-to-face contact hours, online alternatives will also be available for those who are not in Perth, or wish to continue their study online.
The email also went on to outline the option of living on campus in any of the five residential colleges, with fees now being more affordable for students.
Continued Online Learning
One of the biggest updates given was that lectures will stay online for semester two, to ensure the University is able to control the situation if there is a second outbreak. This will free up space for larger venues, and allow adequate space for students and staff.
The update stated that students will have a mix of both online and face-to-face classes next semester, in order to maintain and control the number of students on campus at any given time.
“A number of classes will also stay fully online due to unit design and/or the number of students not able to come to campus and the teaching approach of the unit staff,” Hollander and Shanahan said.
“All students should expect that they will have a mix of units in Semester 2 – some online, some in mixed mode and possibly a small number face-to-face.”
In order to accommodate the social distancing rules and the progress into the next eased restriction phase for the state, the timetable for semester two and allocation process in the Class Allocation System (CAS) has been delayed until July 20.
Students will have to directly sign-up for their activities in the CAS, and can do so from 11am on Monday July 20, until 5pm on Friday, July 24.
The system will offer either both online and face-to-face sign-up for units, or, in some cases, online-only classes.
Students will not need to sign-up for the online components for each unit, but simply watch them online when they prefer.
Finally, both Hollander and Shanahan stressed the importance of students not coming to campus if they are feeling even remotely unwell, urging students to stay home until they have “fully recovered”.
They stated that although we are “tired of COVID” and the impact it has had on all of us, we must not become complacent with health and safety measures.
The email concluded with some closing remarks from Hollander on her last day as being UWA’s Vice-Chancellor.
“I thank you for your constant feedback, questions and comments throughout this very peculiar Covidian period and for your passion, resilience and commitment to your University journey.
“You will look back on this time and wonder how you did it. I know I will.
“I wish you every success for your studies and beyond. If there’s one thing I’ve realised from this experience it’s that you’re all capable, adaptable and resilient people, and this will enable your life decisions.”
That is all of the updates for now, but continue checking back with the ‘Campus News’ section of the magazine. Watch as many Netflix series’ as you can, and enjoy your well- deserved break!
Courtney plans to hide in a secret location ‘douth’ next week, pretending she knows a lot about wine.
Picture courtesy of the University of Western Australia