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Jess McNamara

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WAM Policy Update - a note from the BSA President

Here at the BSA, we are hearing the concerns and conversations that students are having surrounding La Trobe’s revised COVID-19 WAM policy. We understand other groups at La Trobe have begun petitioning the University surrounding potential further WAM changes. The BSA continuously work closely with the University surrounding options for this revised policy, as we do with all issues that directly affect students. Our goal and our purpose are always to make student life better.

To enable us to best support students at Bendigo, we believe that all the facts need to be known about any policy changes before taking further action. To gather all relevant information, the BSA has taken part in numerous detailed meetings and conversations with the University and held discussions with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Student Success. The reasons for this extensive consultation have been to ensure that we may provide our LTUB students with clarity about WAM and how the University came to formalising the COVID-19 WAM policy.

Initially, our preference was to support a policy that shared similarities to the Melbourne University revised WAM policy and we made our thoughts on this clear to La Trobe. La Trobe has investigated many options and one of those options was to consider the Melbourne University policy which gave students a chance an ‘opt in’ option for WAM grading.

The “University of Melbourne” Policy

The BSA strongly advocated for this policy and is the one we took to LTU, as we felt that it was fair and equitable for students.

However, we also acknowledge that we are not the University of Melbourne and modelling needed to determine the best outcome for La Trobe students. The BSA still prefers this model, however recognises that unfortunately it is not transferrable across to La Trobe.

La Trobe has invested significant time to determine whether the Melbourne model could be rolled out at La Trobe. They identified and we agree, that there are unintended consequences for students at La Trobe if the Melbourne model was adopted at La Trobe and that they may face further disadvantage. Listed below are the consequences if that was to occur;

Grading would have to be done manually and this would cause;
- Month long delays in the validation and publication of results to students
- Create very serious problems for students who need to fulfil pre-requisite requirements.

As President, I understand student concerns and thoughts that La Trobe should just ‘put on more staff’ and make this policy work. We also need to recognise that resources are not infinite, and the modeling the University has undertaken to find a feasible outcome highlighted this. Below are some other factors that need to be considered.
- There would be an inability for students to progress into second semester subjects where a first semester subject was a prerequisite.
- Inability for a student to progress into placement where passing a first semester subject is a requirement.
- Unnecessary stress of having to wait for many months before grades can be provided was also considered and hence a delay of students graduating.

When taking into consideration all the challenges with developing a WAM, each consequence and benefit needs to be examined. After our detailed consultation with LTU, the BSA feels that adopting any policy that has not been specifically tailored to support La Trobe students would not be in the best interests of making student life better.

The “Pass / Fail” system

The university also investigated a (P) or fail system (F) of grading for all students this semester something which the BSA did not support this had significant issues including;

  • Professional accrediting bodies not supporting this;
  • Students from across disciplines were consulted to see if this would be a potential solution for La Trobe strong majority like us did not agree
  • Denying students to improve their results if they wished;
  • A number of other universities have implemented this approach despite the impacts for students
  • Disadvantageous to students, particularly for those students intending to progress into postgraduate study

This change would not have made student life better university did not invest any further time into this model.

The Current “‘V’ Grade Marking”

The University has implemented the V Grade marking system for semester one.

  • V Grade will be applied for all students who fail a subject this semester and will result in the fail not being recorded on their academic transcript or being included in the calculation of WAM.

  • A V Grade will ensure that any student who struggles and fails this semester will not be disadvantaged by having a fail recorded against their academic progression.

  • La Trobe were quick in communicating to students as possible and prior to census. This was to ensure that students were aware of the changes and could make an informed decision whether to continue their studies this semester.

Further to this La Trobe has;

  • Mandated all academic staff to adjust their subjects and assessments this semester in light of the difficulties facing students and the new learning environment;

  • Continue to monitor performance and provide proactive support to those students who are struggling in their studies.

  • La Trobe has assured us that they have no intention in not returning to Face to Face learning when it is deemed safe to do so.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or feedback relating to the modified WAM policy. The BSA hopes that the above has clarified the decisions surrounding the changes to WAM. At the BSA we rely on the facts before drawing any conclusions.

La Trobe Bendigo Students are our priority and please be reassured knowing that we continue to work with La Trobe on all matters that impact students and we remain as your student representative voice to make student life better.

Will Griffin
Bendigo Student Association