Last year, the university reintroduced delayed deferred exams in each faculty. The re-establishment of these exams ensured that students who have ongoing circumstances that are beyond their control, had the opportunity to sit their deferred exam at an even later time. This has been integral in providing students who have ongoing conditions, such as having a disability or being a carer, receive the appropriate support from the university.
Recently, a review of delayed deferred exams has been undertaken in the Monash University Learning and Teaching Committee. This resulted in uncertainty being cast over the future of delayed deferred exams. Unfortunately, some faculties have failed to understand the importance of these exams in ensuring students receive a fair and accessible education. These exams designed for students with particularly special circumstances, demonstrated the university’s belief that students should not have their circumstances hinder their capacity to study at university. If the university supports the removal of delayed deferred exams, education at Monash will cease to be accessible to all students and this is discriminatory.
If delayed deferred exams are removed there will be severe implications for students. For instance, if international students with ongoing special circumstances do not have the option to complete a delayed deferred exam, they will have no option but to repeat the unit. Because they cannot receive a Commonwealth supported place, this will increase their already substantial fees. In addition, if they are forced to repeat a unit and therefore study for a longer period than anticipated, their visa may be impacted. This is because if an international student needs to study longer than their visa permits them, they need to apply for a visa extension which incurs addition costs.
Students with ongoing health conditions or who are carers will also lose the opportunity to delay their deferred exam. As a result of not giving students the option to delay their defered exam it can significantly impact their enrolment as they may be forced to complete less units in a semester as they may not have satisfied prerequisites. This can lead to financial strain because students might be forced to study less than 3 units a semester and consequently lose their eligibility for Youth Allowance. This impinges on the equity and access of education for students who are already disadvantaged.
The retention of delayed deferred exams is imperative in ensuring that students are given the opportunity to not allow their circumstances impact their enrolment.
The MSA Education (Academic Affairs) Department launched a campaigned to ‘Keep Delayed Deferred Exams’. This has consisted of a survey allowing students to express why the existence of delayed deferred exams had helped them to succeed academically and what the negative implications would be if they were removed.
In this survey, a 3rd Year Arts/Law student remarked that if the university were to remove delayed deferred exams it would be ‘discriminatory’. This student also noted that delayed deferred exams were in the best interests of students particularly in the law faculty because ‘exams are usually weighted 80-100% of the final mark. It is just common sense and fairness to provide them as an option in unforeseen circumstances’.
The Survey also demonstrated how the option of delayed deferred exams in itself, can have positive results for academic performance within students. A 3rd year Engineering/Science student with an ongoing health condition also said that the existence of delayed deferred exams has provided a sense of reassurance to them; knowing that they could apply for these kinds of exams if the situation called for it meant that the student did not have to worry about whether or not they’d be fit enough to do the exam on the set date. This indirectly reduced the stress for the student thereby increasing the chances of them actually feeling well enough to sit the exam on the original date.
The responses from the students who participated in the survey illustrated how the existence of delayed deferred exams upholds fairness at Monash University. The research undertaken by the department highlights that students who had been granted a delayed deferred exam were given the opportunity to pass their unit. It also showed that the option to delay deferred exams gave them a chance for their ongoing circumstances and/or health issues to potentially improve. Students could receive solace in knowing that there were further options to support them if they could not attend their deferred exam.
The retention of delayed deferred exams is in the best interests of students. The university needs to recognise this. All of the student feedback regarding delayed deferred exams have been communicated with and taken into account by the Learning and Teaching Committee. An outcome will be announced in April.
Amelia Veronese is the Education (Academic Affairs) Officer.