Griffith University has introduced sweeping restructuring this year, with more to come. The changes are an attempt to boost profits at the expense of education quality and accessibility.
Without student consultation, and ignoring staff concerns, management implemented a trimester system in February. In this model, a third academic period is squeezed into the year by condensing term lengths and cutting holidays. The administration’s aim is to make big bucks pumping students through the university at a faster rate.
After just one trimester, students report that they are struggling to juggle paid work with study, feeling exhausted and missing time with family. Centrelink recipients are in the dark about whether their payments will be cut for five months if they choose not to undertake the formally “optional” third trimester. Already harrowed staff face an increased workload with no pay increase. Lecturers and tutors in particular have less time to prepare and mark coursework or conduct research.
In the context of government fee hikes and funding cuts, Griffith students are paying more for less, and not just because of trimesters: courses are moving online, tutorials are being cut, and academic departments are being merged. Bruce Callow, Griffith’s chief technology officer, recently announced proposals to downsize computer labs and outsource IT and student service facilities, among other changes that will require “trimming back” staff jobs.
The disastrous impact of trimesters and cuts at Griffith shows what education looks like when administrations get their way. Universities around the country are hankering for similar changes. Students and staff have to organise to defend our education.