Today we will conduct an in-depth analysis of the education policies presented by Activate, Ignite and Left Action, three student groups at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Although there are some similarities between the policies of the three tickets there are stark differences too, so let’s dive right in!
Deregulation and HECS Reform
Opposition to the deregulation of university fees is something Activate, Ignite and Left Action have all agreed upon. Activate has stated their history of fighting fee regulation and successfully lobbying Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs to come out against fee deregulation. Activate continues to talk about their opposition to deregulation of certain “flagship courses”.
On the other hand, Ignite has stated that they have always had a strong stance against deregulation and will continue to maintain that stance. They have also spoken about how they will stand against any attempts to cut TAFE funding. Left Action has talked about their history of opposing deregulation and how they will continue to organize student protests to make sure deregulation will not go forward.
HECS reform is a more interesting topic as both Ignite and Left Action have strong policies regarding the topic. Ignite has spoken of twofold HECS reform by making sure that purchases of textbooks are covered by HECS and lobbying to increase the number of summer school courses covered by HECS. Left Action on the other hand is suggesting an attempt to coax the government into repealing the lowering of the minimum HECS repayment threshold from $55000 to $52000. Both these policies will be great for the student body but the question arises about the ability for the SRC to execute these policies within the year.
Ignite and Activate both have come out with plans to make textbooks more affordable to students. Ignite has this 6 step plan-
(1) Introduce a textbooks voucher system
(2) Fight to remove parallel import restrictions (PIRS) on textbooks
(3) Texts on HECS!
(4) More online copies of textbooks
(5) More textbooks in the library
(6) More course outlines released before Semester starts!
The textbook voucher system has already been implemented at Western Sydney University. It is a system in which students who can show financial hardship are granted vouchers to purchase textbooks. The Ignite plan will no doubt make textbooks more accessible to students, however the first three steps won’t be easy to achieve as they require a lot lobbying to be passed.
The Activate stance regarding textbooks is far less ambitious in comparison, the crux of their plan revolves around the Second Hand Bookshop and increasing awareness of the existence of it. They have also suggested setting up a trading system via the Arc Website, but the use of this maybe limited as such systems already exist (e.g. StudentVIP).
It must be mentioned that Activate is also suggesting conducting surveys and conversations with students and course conveners to replace text lists which contain unnecessary textbooks. This might be a more helpful solution in the short run before all these systems can be put in place.
This is another topic that all tickets agree on. They all vehemently oppose the implementation of trimesters however their approaches to ensuring the trimester proposal doesn’t go forward are vastly different.
Activate plans to hold informational sessions to educate the students about the proposed changes and hold protests to prevent the implementation of trimesters without proper consultation with the students. Ignite is attempting to take the lobbying directly to the University Council via their Presidential candidate Michael Murdocca. They have also spoken about presenting a policy agenda to the university about how to achieve their goals without switching to trimesters. However, this agenda has not been provided and there is no timeline to how it will be compiled and presented.
Ignite has also made their intention to hold peaceful protests to oppose trimesters clear. Left Action has made it very clear that they oppose trimesters and have compared the proposed UNSW3+ model to the UTS model which is incorrect as there are many differences between them.
Other Policies which affect the Classroom
One of the policies that Ignite and Left Action disagree on is the implementation of flipped classrooms. Ignite believes that flipped classrooms are good as they allow for better face to face learning and evaluation of information. On the other hand, Left Action says although they do support technologies which can be implemented to the benefit of teachers and students they oppose the flipped classroom model as they reduce the number of face-to-face learning experiences by increasing online modules. It is their belief that this model gives students less support in their learning process. Ignite is also pushing for more online availability of course content and lecture materials.
Ignite have proposed they plan to make sure class sizes at UNSW remain small, but there is a contradiction here as they also oppose trimesters which are being proposed to make sure the timetables can be balanced as there is currently a shortage of time and teaching spaces.
Activate is pushing for the reinstatement of Pass Conceded and making academic withdrawal from course far simpler. They are planning to make the procedure for academic withdrawal such that there is no discrimination against students with disabilities or any other group.
Ignite have also come up with a proposal to only give your student ID to the marker in order to avoid any bias in the grading process. They have also spoken about providing guides about WAM, scaling and going on exchange. They have plans to collaborate with the constituent clubs to organize more faculty workshops and networking opportunities. They have also proposed to extend the U@UNSW program which currently helps provide more opportunities for underrepresented demographics at UNSW to get a chance to experience Uni life.
Ignite proposes a system of providing students with a guide which tells students which courses have harsh markers. They also propose to lobby to the faculties to make sure that harsh markers are moderated. However, once again there is no plan or timeline set out to how this guide will be compiled. There are similar initiatives regarding timetabling which haven’t been elaborated on either by Ignite.
General Education Policies
Activate plans to continue developing their Learners as Partners (LeAP) Initiative to try to involve the student body in the decision making of the university. They are also trying to increase the number of student representatives on the University Council.
Activate and Left Action have spoken about how they support and will stand with the students from the Sydney College of Arts (SCA) to prevent the merging or closing down of SCA. Activate has also vowed to keep pressuring UNSW Art & Design to stand against any future attempts of a merger.
Activate and Ignite both have proposals on Scholarship reform. Activate is trying to offer more scholarships to disadvantages demographics within UNSW. They have already cited successfully partnering with the Queer Collective to provide a scholarship for LGBTQIA+ students. Ignite’s main focus seems to be on providing financial assistance and scholarship opportunities for financially disadvantaged students. Their proposal also speaks about expanding a student loan system to allow for repayment after graduating. Neither ticket has spoken about improving scholarship opportunities for international students which is something that is definitely lacking at UNSW even compared to other Australian Universities.
The three tickets bring three different types of policy agendas. Activate is proposing policies which seem to be easier to implement and have immediately visible results. On the other hand, Ignite have some innovative new ideas, but how they will procure the funding to carry them out is questionable. Left Action is proposing some radical long term ideas such as free education but their short term focus seems to be to prevent trimesters and fee deregulation. Whoever might be elected we will be following closely to see if these policies and promises will be implemented. So stay tuned throughout the year as we hold the SRC accountable.