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Exams special report: Barriers to seeking special consideration

Meld Magazine

Wed Jun 05 2013


CULTURAL barriers and lack of awareness mean some international students are holding back from applying for special consideration in times of hardship. Alyce Shaw reports.

Exams special report - special consideration

International students could find it hard to apply for special consideration due to cultural barriers.

According to RMIT University Student Union (RUSU) administration coordinator Ganesh Sundaramurthy, many international students are eligible for special consideration, but they struggle to open up about sensitive topics.

We had a Chinese student come to us recently who didn’t like to talk about personal issues, because they felt like it’s a shame to the family.

“We had a Chinese student come to us recently who didn’t like to talk about personal issues, because they felt like it’s a shame to the family,” Mr Sundaramurthy said.

The RUSU representative says by the time some international students are ready to open up about their problems in order to apply for special consideration, it can be too late.

“They have two days to hand in a written application (for exams), and a lot miss the deadline. We’ve given the university some feedback about this, saying they should get at least a week,” he said.

When assessing applications for special consideration, many universities do not differentiate between local and international students.

“I think the universities need to be much more open-minded for international students,” Mr Sundaramurthy said.

Many universities ensure that students can be offered extensions, or other help for assessments and exams due to medical, financial or personal matters provided there is relevant proof.

While these avenues are useful, Mr Sundaramurthy notes that a lot of international and local students don’t realise there are many legitimate reasons for seeking help.

Personal reasons could include a death or illness within the family, or if a student is a primary carer for a parent or guardian who is ill.

“There is a large group of students who don’t know what their rights are,” he said.

“They only think ‘oh, I’m sick, so I will apply,’ but a lot of them are eligible for other (reasons) too and they don’t know until it’s too late.

“If they have financial issues and are forced to work a lot of hours that will impact or take over their study time, they should be able to provide bank documents or bills.”

Students struggling with issues that could impact their results can reach out for help.

  • University student counselling services are there for students in need, and if you are having problems you feel uncomfortable talking about, they can assist you in applying for special consideration.
  • If something is impacting your studies, head to the student services section on your university’s website and find out if you are applicable for special consideration, or talk to a student union representative and they can help you apply.