Published in The Examiner on Saturday the 25th of March was an advertisement requesting community feedback – ‘Transforming lives. Transforming cities – the new Inveresk Education Precinct’.
UTas has recently celebrated a partnership between local, state and federal governments to move the Launceston campus from Newnham to Inveresk in an effort to revitalise the city with the promise of attracting thousands of new students to Northern Tasmania.
In the same week the advertisement was published, a group of current students from the Bachelor of Education Early Childhood degree have been bundled together to be told that an increased amount of their Early Childhood course will be going online. These changes will take place in the later, and most crucial years of the course. Students who attended the meeting were told that the course was no longer viable to be delivered on-campus due to lack of student numbers. The group have argued that they have the required amount of students to meet the minimum of 12 needed to hold face to face tutorials.
In an email to students, staff at the Faculty of Education confirmed that “It is a commitment of the Faculty that all units in the first and second year of the degree are offered both face to face and online. However, many of the units offered in third and fourth year are only offered to Early Childhood students in the online mode of delivery. This is because the number undertaking these units at any one time is often small and it is not possible to offer face to face tutorials.”
When clashes with the course timetable became apparent, students demanded a meeting. Some students were faced with the prospect of undertaking practical experience in a workplace during the same time as semester one exams and study week. This has since been resolved with the rescheduling of the timetable.
Challenges highlighted at the meeting, and the time needed for issues to be followed up on have students questioning the future viability of the course. Facilitators have guaranteed those that are currently in the course will be able to complete their degree. Even with this reassurance, many early childhood students have considered moving to the Primary Education degree.
It is a requirement that students undertake Early Childhood specific courses if they want to gain the accreditation they need to work in the early years of primary school education. In the 10 Early Childhood courses over both Year 3 and 4, only two will be available face to face.
International students who are enrolled will no longer have the required contact hours to meet their VISA requirements to stay in Australia in the final year of the course. As the education course is only available in Launceston, the changes have also significantly impacted students who have moved from Hobart.
A Tasmanian principal has commented that early childhood education is about the relationships and connections between young children, their families and the educational setting. The principal said “If the education act is changed to lower the school starting age, there will be a greater need for quality Tasmanian educators for young children. The experiences and social connections students build at university can help them as professionals.”
Some current students have been forced to question the future of their studies at UTas and are hoping that they are not left behind, and their concerns are listened to in the process of the campus relocation.