The QUT Guild has been negotiating with the university for almost a year to implement a percentage per-day deduction late assessment policy, however, the policy review committee is pushing back on the student voice.
To explain for those unsure, the policy refers to what happens when you submit an assessment piece after the due date. At QUT, if you don’t have an approved extension, or you’re not on a disability support plan, submitting your assignment late will result in a grade of 1 or 0% (MOPP E/6.3.5). Read here.
QUT is the only Australian university to implement this policy. Every other university deducts grades per day late, but more on that later.
Late last year, through focus groups organised in a partnership between the Guild and a QUT department called Student Success Group (SSG), students identified a range of reasons why the policy should change.
The consensus amongst students was that if something went wrong on the due date or in the moments leading up to midnight, students simply don’t deserve to fail for needing a little more time.
Under current extension and special consideration policies, which have been altered for this semester due to the pandemic, technical issues or being called into work last minute were not good enough reasons to get extra time.
Despite these concerns from students, the review committee has come to a different conclusion.
So, what is the committee suggesting?
The current proposal from the Academic Concessions and Student Submission of Assessment review committee (ACSSA) is a ‘no questions’, do documentation required 48-hour extension, available once per assessment to all students. Here’s their research findings if you want to see their method.
Not only has this policy seemingly been plucked out of thin air, but it also changed nothing. After the 48 hours, the same old policy exists.
Some may say this is a move in the right direction, but I would argue it gives false hope towards the prospect of change and is in fact worse. In reality, this is just an accessible extension option with no change to the late submission policy.
The Guild has assured the people on ACSSA that this also means prescribed assessment due dates will no longer mean anything, as students can now submit two days late with no consequences. Not to mention the prospect of the teaching staff also assuming everyone will take this extension and pull usual due dates forward two days.
ACSSA have also told us that a percentage per-day deduction policy – is not politically viable at QUT – and would be a burden on teaching staff, however, every other university in Australia seems to manage just fine.
What is the national standard?
Of the 37* universities I researched, 22 have university-wide percentage per-day deduction late assessment policies, and the remaining 13 have variations on the same policy between faculties, leaving QUT as the odd one out.
In a statement provided to the Guild, National Union of Students Education Officer Lincoln Aspinall said QUT’s policy is “out of step with existing practices within the university space and is extremely inequitable.”
Addressing the committee’s 48-hour extension proposal, Aspinall said: “the NUS shares QUT Guild’s view that this approach is unideal,” and that “such a policy proposal is unprecedented and certainly unfamiliar to the university sector.”
Additionally, every student union representative or advocacy staff member I spoke to agreed that QUT’s policy was terrible, and most were completely shocked when I told them what it is.
One advocacy staff member from a Student Union in Melbourne said they had “never even heard of that,” that it was “a really crap system.”
In response to the argument that a more lenient system would be a burden on staff, they also said that “it takes five seconds,” to calculate percentage deductions and that under QUT’s current policy, the correspondence between staff and students to deal with issues created by the ‘instant fail’ is likely more work than calculating the deductions.
Similarly, a representative of the Southern Cross Post Graduate Association in NSW laughed when I described QUT’s policy, said it was “insane,” and made clear that the idea it was a burden was not at all accurate.
The President of the Murdoch Student Guild mirrored these comments and said he thought the policy was “draconian.”
Of the 22 universities with consistent policies across faculties, almost all deduct 5% per day after the due date, ranging from a three-day cap at the Australian Catholic University (the harshest policy I could find), to there being no limit.
*There are 43 Universities in Australia, 40 Australian universities, two international universities, and one private specialty university.
With ACSSA not budging on their 48-hour extension idea, the only thing we can do is put as much pressure as possible on the committee and the university to abolish the current policy in favour of a percentage per-day deduction.
Unfortunately, thanks to the bureaucratic nature of university policy change, if we don’t win this review, it may be years before students at QUT see change. This is why pressure from students is essential.
Students are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with their thoughts on this issue.
More Reading: 0% Policy: What’s Going On?