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WSU’s first student-created unit is here

After two years of collective efforts, the first unit of its kind is offered at Western Sydney University....
Photo: Samuel Suresh | 21C Student Curriculum Partner

After two years of collective efforts, the first unit of its kind is offered at Western Sydney University. The elective unit, We Are the University: Students Co-Creating Change, invites students from all disciplines to partake in creating change and resolving real issues within the university.

Students now have the chance to have a say in major issues and potential changes to the university. The unit is one of the successful initiatives by the 21C project and WSU Student Partners. It paves the way to get more students involved within the university, and to give credit to student volunteers for their efforts.

“Rather than getting them [students] to do heaps of more stuff for free, we thought it would be nice to try to wrap that learning in a unit,” said Dr. Peseta.

Dr. Tai Peseta is the Academic Lead of the 21C project. Among several crucial roles related to curriculum work, she contextualises and implements the initiatives developed by the project.

The approach of the unit encourages open discussion and mutual exchange of ideas. The dynamic of the relationship between academics and students is not centred around the wants or needs of students, rather on finding common ground and working in collaboration to achieve results that advance the university as a whole.

“It’s a completely different way of thinking about the work. You’re not just a student in this unit, you’re actually helping make the university, so you’re leaving a legacy for other students,” said Dr. Peseta.

Nine weeks after its release, the unit is receiving mixed reactions from the first round of students. While some saw this as a golden opportunity for change, others became overwhelmed with the responsibility.

“Some of them have said to me I hope this unit never ends, some of them have said this is massive what you’re asking for here that I’m so overwhelmed with the responsibility of doing it well. Some love the idea of helping the university,” said Dr. Peseta.

 

 

The students involved in co-creating the unit say this has been a life-changing experience, one that evolved the way they perceive education, the university, themselves and others.

Ashley Beathe, Maria Manthos and Chinnu Jose expressed their appreciation of the project and hopes for the unit. The three WSU Student Partners have been part of the 21C project since its establishment in 2017.

At the beginning of the 21C project, Chinnu said that she was not confident about her skills, however, she soon realised that her role was to offer a different perspective as a student.

“I always felt that the academics and staff appreciated the different perspective because it’s obviously one that they don’t have. But also, I learned a lot from them and what life around the university looks like for them,” said Chinnu.

Maria adds that the creation process was challenging, and many ideas went back and forth. The aim is to include student insight, and so all that was required was to engage in the relevant topics as students.

“That’s something I always tried to remember whenever I felt overwhelmed or out of place,” said Maria.

At the end of each semester, students will pitch their proposals to the Senate Education for a chance to see their ideas come to life. While the proposals will be tailored towards WSU, these will be accessible to a national and global audience. This means that successful projects could also be implemented anywhere in Australia or around the world.

“What I’m trying to do is get our students in the unit to feel like they belong to a global community of student partners,” said Dr. Peseta.

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Dear Minister, HECS is a necessity

Open letter to the Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP...

Open letter to the Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP

Dear Mr Tehan,

The recent legislation to axe the student HECS loan for students who fail 50 per cent of their units in their first year of university is an ill-judged decision. Most students in Australia rely on the benefit of being able to complete a higher education without the added pressure of paying their fees simultaneously.

Hence at a time where many are affected financially, with no foresight as to when the situation will ease, a decision like this can be a catalyst for increased worry and anxiety.

Choosing your course and commencing university can already be a hard step for many. Some are fresh out of HSC, some are mature age students who have children and spouses to care for, and many are international students who are just finding their feet in a newly foreign country. First year students do not need to be on edge of fear of having the rug pulled from under them.

In your media release, it is mentioned that the changes are to ensure whether a student was “academically suited” to their course on an ongoing basis. For myself, this takes me back to when I was in school and I had to remain in what my teachers confined me to based on my performance.

The truth is, if I had chosen to change my course in my first two years of university, I know I would have regretted it. My grades were nowhere to what they are now, but it is passion that has allowed me to excel, not my IQ. University shouldn’t just be about what you’re smartest at, but what your biggest passion is. It is the beginning of a journey that is aimed at taking you to your prime location; your career, and we should be uplifting students to do what they love. Not punish them for their shortcomings.

We understand that there have been some ingenuine students when it comes to the seriousness of their enrolment, but how great is this number compared to the majority of resilient students who are defying all obstacles to complete their degrees. Through this legislation, the Department of Education is stigmatising failure, rather than creating an open space for students. Ministers and universities need to address the core reasons behind it.

If I may, I would like to respectfully, on behalf of the many upcoming hard-working and resilient students, ask that you rethink this legislation. We are at a point where two in five school leavers enrol in higher education. We hope not to see a regression in this and continue to see an increase in university alumni across Australia.

Warm regards,

A university student