By Austin Bond, Analysis Editor
NOTE: Since the publication of this piece, we have reached out to the various identified stakeholders for comment. These will be followed up on in a future piece.
After weeks of discussion and voting, the Monash Academic Board has granted students the ability to exclude this semester’s results from their WAM/GPA calculation, and to have supplementary exams for any grade above 40. Threshold hurdles have also been lowered from 45 to 40. This result follows tireless work from various student and university bodies, most notably three of our Academic Board student representatives: Chloe Polglaze, James Desmond, and Anouska Khambatta.
What the New Policy Means
Firstly, you can opt-in to exclude all of this semester’s results from your Weighted Average Mark (WAM) and Grade Point Average (GPA). If you pass, you will still get the unit credit, but instead of a number grade your academic transcript will say ‘Satisfied Faculty Requirements’ (SFR). What this means is that if your WAM would normally drop from a 70 to a 67 this semester, you can opt-in to keep it how it was. Note that you cannot pick and choose which units this applies to: you must choose to either have every unit count towards your WAM/GPA, or have them all be SFR.
Secondly, if you achieve a final mark between 40 and 49, you will have the option to take a supplementary assessment. The previous minimum mark needed to qualify for a supplementary assessment was 45: it has now been extended to 40. The rule that you can only have two supplementary assessments in your course has also been relaxed.
Furthermore, the required mark for threshold hurdles has been lowered from 45 to 40. This includes exams. (You will still need an overall grade of above 50 to pass.) Note that for units with competency hurdles (e.g. certain Medicine units), those competency hurdles will still need to be satisfied.
These policies are in addition to the already-announced ability to withdraw from units after your results are released. If you get a bad grade, you can withdraw and try again next semester, or you can have those units show as SFR on your transcript.
The exact process for how students apply for these services will be arranged by the university over the coming weeks. But rest assured, if the virus stops you from doing well in your course, your academic transcript will not suffer as a result.
How This Result Was Won
The decision-making process started when three of the Academic Board student representatives – Chloe, James and Anouska – presented a report to the Academic Board, outlining their concerns about the old grading and examination policy (the report can be read here: https://bit.ly/2KUflQu). By submitting the report, they ensured the topic would be discussed by the Board, and that policy changes could be put to a vote.
When the Academic Board met on April 15, the three reps spoke in favour of additional measures to support students who failed units and/or underperformed due to the pandemic. Supported by various staff members, and members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), they put forward a detailed and well-researched case, conveying the urgency of the policy and rebutting counterarguments. They shared the experiences of many students disadvantaged by the virus; for example those recently unemployed, with childcare responsibilities, and even those who have to drive twenty minutes for good internet access. Their arguments were helped by student surveys conducted by MSA (Monash Student Association) and MUSA (Monash University Student Association, Malaysia); these surveys provided an evidentiary basis for their case, showing that most Monash students wanted these policy changes.
The Academic Board discussed these policies at length. A decision was made regarding no fails and Examity and these policies were announced on April 17th. It was agreed that further policies needed to be considered, so the Board agreed to form the ‘Academic Safety Net Working Group’. The Working Group was tasked with preparing recommendations for the Board to vote on and included, among others, Associate Deans, university staff, and our three student representatives.
Matthew Ooi from MUSA was also invited to join the Working Group. Through their advocacy, over eight thousand Monash Malaysia students were also heard.
By all accounts, the Working Group saw Monash staff and students work together constructively. University staff were collaborative and supportive, ensuring students were involved in all decisions. After careful research and discussion, the Working Group submitted their recommendations for the Academic Board to vote on. The Academic Board has now adopted all of the recommendations, giving struggling students an essential lifeline.
This outcome would not have been achieved without the hard work and determination of our student representatives. However, so many different people played a valuable role. Whether it was the ‘Monash Uni: Support Your Students’ campaign collecting signatures, MSA and MUSA surveying students, the NTEU members providing advice and support to our student reps, the LSS outlining the pitfalls of using Examity, the countless students writing to their faculty, or the University administrators showing a willingness to listen, so many helped get this policy through. You should all be proud of your work.
In spite of this horrible pandemic, the Monash community was able to speak with a unified voice. When things eventually return to normal, we should not forget the power we have when we come together.
Stay safe Monash University, and remember – SFRs get degrees!