While states have been in contest over the issue of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, many university students have been left to navigate the situation on their own.
On top of adjusting to online classes, students are also facing delays in their degrees, increased debts and the prospect of trying to find graduate jobs in an economy struggling to support the tens of thousands of people and businesses out of work.
“With the dream of going on exchange, I extended my degree by a year and went part-time last year which not only delayed my graduation by a year but also meant that I was ineligible for student concessions,” Mr Snell said.
“I has also turned down offers for full-time work that I had received around my original expected graduation date.”
After making the decision to study abroad to gain extra experience and broaden his employment prospects, Mr Snell said he rearranged his entire life.
“I put my entire life, career and graduation on hold for a year to study overseas and now that has backfired majorly.
“I could have graduated by now with a full-time job and wage but now I’m facing the prospect of looking for graduate jobs during a recession and pretty uncertain financial times.”
Mr Snell said he feels the Vietnamese universities were better equipped to deal with the pandemic and while Australia universities were scrambling to transition, his exchange university had already moved his course online.
“I had already been studying my Vietnamese subjects for three weeks and have continued to study those classes for this entire semester.”
For students like Mr Snell who are hoping to build a career in arts or entertainment, the prospect of the task of getting a solid foothold in the industry seems near impossible.
With film, theatre and music industries struggling more than ever, the task of getting a solid start to a career has been near impossible.
Design student, Amy Lane, said since the pandemic began, she has been unable to gain the kinds of skills she needs to begin a career in her chosen industry.
“The main concern for everyone is missing out on work for our portfolios in a competitive industry,” she said.
“Zoom is dramatically decreasing the value of our practical lessons as well.
“We just don’t have access to the workrooms we need and the entire course is based on collaboration with other people to put on a show.”
Ms Lane said students are working to convince universities to subsidise their fees due to being unable to take full advantage of university education.
While TAFE’s and other tertiary institutions are offering free courses, university students like Amy are adding thousands to their HECS debts.
“We aren’t getting the industry practice we pay for,” she said.
The university has defended its handling of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has been exceptionally disruptive for all in our community,” a spokesperson from UTS told Nine.com.au.
“Our number one priority throughout has been the health and safety of our students and staff, while trying to minimise the negative effects of the pandemic on study and work.
“We’ve managed to maintain a high level of quality when it comes to the student learning experience, despite the speed with which we needed to transition to remote teaching and the majority of our students have appreciated that.”
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