‘t was Tuition-free week …

All through the [campus] Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Not quite true – but campus is extremely quiet now we  have hit the tuition-free week. You notice it as soon as you reach campus. At 8:45am there was almost no-one around as I walked to the office; the few people I saw were clearly staff.

This is probably one of the most significant drawbacks to a suburb-based campus. City campuses have vibrancy and life still even during tuition-free periods. And, if nothing else, it’s a short walk to someplace where something is happening, close by in town.

What does tuition-free week mean to students today? Today, I noticed that there was food and drinks out downstairs for our doctoral students as they have their colloquium running. This is a fantastic idea as it keeps the university resources (rooms and facilities) well-utilised for a longer period throughout the year, while UG and PG students don’t otherwise need the space. The colloquiums are also an excellent opportunity for the PhD students to connect, form a network, and get valuable feedback on their research from other students (who can be the harshest critics) and staff that otherwise may not know what is going on.

But the UG and other coursework PG students during tuition-free week? I suspect that many of them take the opportunity offered by no classes to do a few more shifts at work. They could be working on their assignments, learning the material that will help them succeed in their classes, but they have other priorities. The sad thing is that the students that could benefit from a week of focus on their university study may even be those that are taking the opportunity to do more shifts!

Am I a hypocrite? I recall that at one period I was working three part-time jobs while studying for my BSc and BCom. At all times, however, I ensured that I had adequate focus on the university studies. And, when things became more difficult, I cut down on the work that I was doing, providing me with more opportunity to excel academically. Three years to complete a bachelor degree – it’s not a huge amount of time to forgo income while you seek to get your career off on the right foot. (Doctoral study, on the other hand, is vastly more expensive; my back-of-a-napkin calculations today put the cost of fees + reasonable living costs, at just under AU $200,000 for three years of study if you don’t include the opportunity costs of income you forgo. An expensive education!)

A quiet campus on tuition-free week? Not entirely – a quick trip through the library leads me to believe there are plenty of students still working darned hard and that’s good to see. I’ll have a new pile of assignments to mark in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to it – I’ve got some great students that I’m teaching.



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