Australian journalism school students ‘hung out to dry’ over sudden closure

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Maclean College journalism school sudden closure
Maclean College journalism school sudden closure ... students "absolutely gutted" by the unexpected move two weeks into their course. Image: Stevica Mrdja/EyeEm/Pedestrian.TV

By Kathleen Farmilo and Sweeney Preston in Sydney

Journalism students from Australia’s Macleay College programme with 50 participants are saying their degrees have been cancelled just two weeks into the course.

Macleay is a private tertiary institution with campuses in Sydney and Melbourne. Macleay students say that on Friday afternoon they were sent an email saying their Bachelor of Journalism degree course would be cancelled due to low enrolment numbers.

The email states that first-year students can either switch to a digital media course or withdraw and receive a statement of attainment for their completed units.

Macleay College also requests that the students inform it of their decision by the census date on March 18.

This would leave the students with an extremely short time to make such an important decision.

Since the unexpected email on Friday afternoon, the university has not provided any further support to students, student Ezra Bell told Pedestrian.TV.

“There’s been no communication from the uni they’ve really just hung us out to dry,” she said.

“Why couldn’t they have said this to our faces?”

Bell doubted that enrolment numbers — about 48 are on the programme — were the reason for the shutdown.

“What’s the real reason because we all know low enrolments is not the case.”

This point was echoed by another Macleay journalism student, Kelsey Richmond. Richmond claimed that student enrolment numbers had actually increased.

Part of the Macleay College journalism school closure statement on Friday
Part of the Macleay College journalism school closure statement on Friday. Image: PTV

Macleay students have taken to Twitter to vent about the experience.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) confirmed on Saturday that the degree had been cancelled. The union estimated about 48 students would be impacted.

Student Chelsea Caffery claimed the college told students to reach out to psychologists if they need it. But the university’s mental health services do not re-open until Monday.

Chelsea further alleged that staff were not aware that the degree was going to be cancelled.

“To be told on a Friday afternoon after hours is really heartless,” Chelsea told news.com.

“The head of Journalism [Sue Stephenson] only found out minutes before the students did… after 5pm… on a Friday.”

The college has not released a statement about the situation yet, but it is already copping flack online.

As pointed out by Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) president Dr Alexandra Wake, most universities have now closed their enrolments.

This means it could be really hard for those students to re-enrol in other degrees.

On top of everything else, Macleay college’s degree in journalism is not cheap.

It costs $54,000 to complete all 24 units so the potential financial burden on students is high.

The private university is owned by fashion entrepreneur Sarah Stavrow. She told news.com that she would not be commenting.

Asia Pacific Report adds: A statement by the Australian Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) said it was seeking further information about Maclean’s decision and support that was being offered to affected students to complete their studies.

“The timing and manner of how this was communicated by Macleay College to their students is also of concern to TEQSA,” said the statement.

It added that if there had been a breach of the Higher Education Standards Framework, “appropriate enforcement action” would be taken to protect the students’ interests.

Kathleen Farmilo and Sweeney Preston are writers for Pedestrian.TV. Republished with permission.

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