There are many public and private discussions taking place right now about how profound changes to education brought on by COVID-19, are impacting students and their studies.
At Torrens University, after four weeks of all our students and staff working online and remote, we have certainly been learning and growing together, while remaining focussed on the highest quality of teaching and learning.
We now feel it’s essential to update you on how we’ve been learning and growing together, what we’ve learnt as an organisation, and how we will continue to ensure the highest quality education experience for you.
Our vision and purpose have only become more critical as we have navigated through this COVID-19 situation. Since our inception in 2014, Torrens University was established upon clear promises to our students that quality is non-negotiable, and choice of delivery through online, face to face and hybrid has always been available for all students at the same quality and price.
Our belief in being global extends from our pricing policies to our student support offshore and onshore, so there has always been fairness and equity in what we offer all of our students.
Here for Good – as both a private university and as a public benefit corporation, we have continued to deliver value for our students, and we have and will continue to have competitive pricing – which is why we provide over 20 million dollars of scholarships annually.
Employability – for Torrens University, it’s about providing industry-relevant education and training which sets up our graduates for careers, progress and fulfilment – which impacts their lives, those of their families and their societies.
This is why it is important that we listen to our students who are relating their experiences in the shadow of COVID-19. Some need urgent attention, particularly the effect lockdown and physical distancing is having on international students.
For many of our international students, this is a very difficult time. They are far away from home and the support of family, friends and community. Many rely on part-time and casual work to support living and studying in Australia but have lost their jobs since the introduction of COVID-19 mitigation measures. This has brought on financial hardship, including the stresses of paying fees and living expenses.
We know this because some of our international students have told us about the pressures they are under. These are significant. While, by nature, our international students are resilient and tough, it is critical that we provide the best support we can as a private university.
Here are some of the important measures we are taking during this period to help our students with some of the challenges they are facing:
Each year we provide a number of fee reductions and scholarships to our students. In 2019, we gave out close to $21 million worth of fee related scholarships to our student community. This year we continue on this path in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In exceptional circumstances, we at times provide fee extensions to payment deadlines. The applications for fee extensions will need to be supported with documentary evidence of the exceptional circumstances. Please contact Student Services for more details:
Phone: 1300 575 803
Financial Assistance Bursary
To better support our students facing significant financial pressures during this time, we have created a special Financial Assistance Bursary. This will help currently enrolled, full-time international and domestic students, who are experiencing significant financial distress as a result of COVID-19, to continue their studies.
If you are experiencing such financial distress, please contact our Contact Centre. The applications for the Bursary will need to be supported with documentary evidence of financial distress. You will also need to meet a set of criteria to qualify for the Bursary. Applications for the Bursary close on May 15, 2020.
Please contact Student Services for more details:
Phone: 1300 575 803
In establishing a financial assistance bursary, we are also proud that individual staff members are also donating to the bursary.
Extraordinary supplementary assessment/re-assessment procedure to support students who may be disadvantaged by the current changes in delivery and/or assessment or who have experienced disadvantage resulting from the COVID-19 circumstances
We recognise that there may be challenges during lockdown and that this may impact studies.
Students who receive an overall assessment/final mark of fail but who achieve 35% or more in a subject/or subjects will be permitted to sit a supplementary examination or resubmit an assessment item to enable them to achieve the required learning objectives – at no additional cost.
The principles contained in current policy in respect of supplementary arrangements by examination or assignment will remain in place. It is the hurdle (35% rather than 45%) that is being adjusted.
For projects or assessment papers, lecturers will nominate which assessment item students will repeat.
Additional support in respect of added briefings, revision sessions, targeted advice and ongoing support will be provided as arranged.
This extraordinary procedure will remain in place to support students for the duration of this period and until students return to studying physically on campus.
Failed Subject Policy
We have altered our student fee policy to offer financial support to any student who fails a subject. Currently, if a student fails a subject and is required to repeat it, they need to pay for it at the 2020 full price point. For students on scholarship, in Trimester 2 only (and until further notice), any student who fails a subject and needs to repeat it will be able to do so at the price they originally paid for it.
Failed Assessment Policy
For many students, you are now doing assessments in a more flexible and online environment. This has involved adapting to new ways of learning. Students who fail an assessment can approach their lecturer for an opportunity to address shortcomings. This goes hand in hand with the provision that students can qualify for a supplementary assessment opportunity at the end of the term if they fail and achieve at least 35%. We have made this decision to support students in the learning process. Most importantly, this does not diminish the quality of the qualification students obtain. Instead, this special consideration recognises the challenges students are navigating and is aimed at strengthening the learning experience of students.
We have enhanced a number of employability support services including:
- Success Coaches: Dedicated Success Coaches are available to support you, particularly now during these times.
- Careers Connect platform: we have just updated our platform that connects students and employers with new jobs. Each day, new roles are posted and filled so keep an eye out. We will also continue to monitor and post new opportunities from some major Australian companies including Coles, Woolworths, Telstra, NAB, BHP, and the Australian Government. Find out more here.
- Virtual Careers Expo: On May 6-7, between 12pm-8pm (AEST), we are leading the first Virtual Careers Expo in Australia involving over 40 of the nation’s key higher education institutions. You can register here.
Support services online & contacts
We have ensured all our support services including our library, confidential counselling and other services are fully accessible remotely. You can access all of these services through the Student Hub.
Representation to the Australian and state governments for assistance to the International student community
The Torrens University Executive team has been in weekly, sometimes daily, discussions with the state and federal governments, including the Federal Minster for Education. Rest assured that we are fighting for you and will always do this. It is agreed a student voice is always important.
At our recent Academic Board meeting the Student Representative Council was represented and the team had a full discussion regarding student experience and other pertinent issues.
Some of our students have also enquired about the possibility of fee waiver and deferment options for Trimester 2 at Torrens University. We have always offered selected fee reductions and scholarships; however, we won’t be offering a blanket waiver for all students in Trimester 2.
One important point we have always made is that we do not differentiate price on mode of delivery – whether that be online, face-to-face and hybrid. This has been our approach since we began in 2014, and it remains today. We have a continued commitment to quality and our value-for-money proposition is already benchmarked in the lowest quartile for fees in Australia.
The situation we all find ourselves in is unprecedented. We will continue to reassess how we are supporting our students as long as COVID-19 measures are in place across Australia.
Our priority has always been, and will remain, the safety and wellbeing of our students – and this includes supporting those adversely affected during tough, uncertain times.
One of our key pledges is to ensure our students are empowered to realise their personal goals and make a positive impact on their world. We will continue to work together to ensure that students have a voice no matter what the circumstances are. We will continue to ensure our students love what they learn.
Supporting our students during this critical time will keep us firmly on track.
(Sections of this blog were amended on 15 May 2020, to more accurately reflect Torrens University policies.)