INTERNATIONAL and local students have been left without their semester one results as an industrial relations dispute between the National Tertiary Education Union and several major Victorian universities continue. Vivian Tan reports.
Students at a number of campuses have been denied their semester results following the implementation of bans on processing results by staff.
The bans follow a stalemate in negotiations over wages and work conditions between the NTEU and the management of six Victorian universities.
Those affected include students from Swinburne, RMIT, La Trobe, Monash and Deakin University, as well the University of Ballarat.
We don’t know when we are going to receive our results and we don’t know if we have met the requirements for next semester. – Peter Lee, student
Many students have responded with shock, and some have expressed anger for being unwillingly implicated in the dispute.
One comment left on NTEU’s website by a student read: “I hope that the university gives you absolutely nothing. Congratulations on making the majority of the student body lose respect for your organisation.”
Others are taking a different view to the ban. Salman Sheikh, president of the Swinburne International Students’ Association and Swinburne Student Union’s International Representative, said the SSU understood why the ban was taking place.
“I’ve been speaking to students about the ban and they understand why it’s happening. The university should do its best to give them proper conditions so they can help us as students as much as possible because this is a university, not a business,” he said.
“If we’re unable to give teachers proper work conditions then how do we expect a quality education?”
Mr Sheikh pointed out that the bans contain exemptions for some international students, such as those required to provide their results to the government for financial support.
“The exemption board understands that students with visa conditions need the results, and are happy to assist them by giving them their marks,” he said.
We are very sorry that some students may be affected, but it is RMIT’s unwillingness to make a commitment to its staff that has brought us to this point. – Melissa Slee, NTEU spokeswoman
NTEU has expressed regret for the impact on students, but firmly stands by its actions.
“One of the key claims we’ve made to the university in collective agreement negotiations is for fairer staffing arrangements so that lecturers can spend more time helping students,” NTEU spokeswoman for the RMIT branch Melissa Slee said.
“We are very sorry that some students may be affected, but it is RMIT’s unwillingness to make a commitment to its staff that has brought us to this point,” she said.
“RMIT has spent more than half a billion dollars on buildings with more projects underway, but it is dragging its heels on providing for the staff who deliver quality learning and teaching.”
But RMIT University’s deputy vice-chancellor Professor Gill Palmer has urged the NTEU to join the university to “focus on an enterprise agreement that is realistic”.
In the current uncertain environment, with major cuts in state and federal government funding, it is challenging to secure the future of the high quality education, research and services of the university. – RMIT deputy vice-chancellor Prof Gill Palmer.
“In the current uncertain environment, with major cuts in state and federal government funding, it is challenging to secure the future of the high quality education, research and services of the university,” Prof Palmer said.
“Throughout the negotiation process, we have been focusing on how best to meet the needs of all members of the University community, and ensure a strong and sustainable future.
“We are disappointed that the NTEU has decided to take industrial action,” she said.
Peter Lee, a student at Swinburne University, said he felt sorry for university staff and acknowledged their time and efforts. However, he noted the industrial dispute was being unfairly taken out on students, who had the right to know their results.
“I feel like I’m in an awkward spot, that’s how most students would feel I think. We don’t know when we are going to receive our results and we don’t know if we have met the requirements for next semester,” Mr Lee said.