On Tuesday 21 February the ANU announced that it is considering scheduling examinations on public holidays and Sundays during the coming end-of-semester examination period.
Certain examinations will also be held off-campus, with the exception of students sitting exams registered with Access and Inclusion.
The proposed changes have arisen due to the Union Court redevelopment, which will render many venues unavailable as a result of both re-purposing and noise pollution throughout the examination period.
ANUSA and PARSA have opposed the changes, creating a petition directed at the ANU Academic Board and University Executive to ensure no changes are made to the six-day cycle.
The petition, which has attracted almost 500 signatures, states that the principal concern with the changes is the effect they will have on student welfare during the busy period. As Sunday exams increase the likelihood of consecutive exam days, if the changes go ahead students will be deprived of ‘a guaranteed day off to rest and study’.
ANUSA President James Connolly raised concerns about the effect of a seven-day examination cycle on students’ mental health.
‘It is well known that demand for counselling and mental health support increases significantly during exam periods and this will only serve to exacerbate that issue.’
Connolly suggested that scheduling exams on Sundays and public holidays would disproportionately affect low SES students relying on penalty rates to meet the financial demands of rent, groceries and transport. Connolly also stated that the Student Assistance Unit run by ANUSA and PARSA would support any such students by providing ‘emergency grants, grocery vouchers and referrals to professional mental health support services.’
ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Marnie Hughes-Warrington told Woroni that the ANU was ‘acutely conscious of minimising the stressors on our students.’ She suggested that the seven-day examination cycle would allow the exam period to be restricted to 17 days, without the university having to hold three exams a day or stretching out the exam block to up to three weeks.
Professor Hughes-Warrington also emphasised the university’s commitment to including students’ perspectives in decision making on the issue, stating that the Academic Board and University Executive were ‘including the views of students’ by meeting with student representatives to discuss options before finalising alternative venues and transport to those venues.
However, Connolly denied this being the case, stating that the push against the changes, including the ‘Our Union Court’ Facebook page, was led by ‘ongoing frustrations shared by ANUSA and PARSA owing to the absence of an internal communications strategy for the Union Court redevelopment.’