On Wednesday 11 August, the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students) hosted an all-student forum on the proposed University Transformation. This forum included a short presentation from the Vice-Chancellor and an opportunity for students to ask questions via Slido.
The proposed changes are in response to the profound impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the University and broader sector. La Trobe has seen a $165m+ reduction in revenue, compared to 2019, as a direct result of the pandemic; and this may not recover until 2028.
We are confident that the changes we are proposing will ensure that La Trobe is a strong, relevant and sustainable institution into the future. We continue to prioritise the student experience and delivery of high-quality teaching and research. We have developed our courses to ensure they are designed in a manner that supports you to engage in flexible study modes, and provide a considered choice of disciplinary and cross-disciplinary elective offerings, and to focus on the career-ready skills you need to succeed. In many courses, this will mean that an expanded range of electives will become available and more students will be able to undertake placement in industry. La Trobe will continue to be a supportive and inclusive place to study, and we will continue to focus on supporting your success.
What do these proposals mean for students?
- The majority of courses and subjects will not be affected by the proposed changes.
- Any staff redundancies won’t come into effect until 2022.
- We have increased flexibility across a number of disciplines and new academic staff roles will create additional opportunities for students to undertake cross disciplinary study.
- There will be greater support and opportunities for industry experience in your degree.
How will student support services change?
- More counsellors and wellbeing specialists will be available across all campuses.
- 10% increase in ASK La Trobe staff to meet increased demand.
- Additional student advisors at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.
- Introduction of dedicated academic advisors for our Indigenous and international students.
- $40M Digital Transformation Investment to improve our student IT systems over the next 8-18 months.
- Potential to extend engagement with UniLodge (or third-party provider) to manage residential accommodation. This will ensure dedicated support is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
How can students provide feedback?
If you want to provide specific feedback on the change you can do so through the following mechanisms:
- Through your student associations.
- By emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback can be submitted up until 5pm on Wednesday 18 August. Details about the feedback received and how it was taken into consideration will be communicated as part of the change outcome in any Decision to Proceed.
Common questions raised by students
- What is the impact on staff?
The change proposal includes significant changes to the way we are structured. This will result in both new opportunities and redundancies. The current modelling estimates a loss of around 200 FTE positions (full time – financial equivalent) – less than previously forecast and communicated with staff.
- Why are the proposed changes at Bundoora campus the greatest?
Bundoora is home to most of our students and staff, so any proposed changes will be centred on this campus. The proportional impact is relative to the make-up of our workforce. It is important to note that the changes to staffing at Bundoora will not result in reduced services to students and we are increasing investment in front line services like counselling.
- Will the conditions for staff change if they move to new roles?
There are no proposed changes to the employment conditions of staff as a result of this proposed change. All staff conditions align with our Collective Agreement.
- How have staff been consulted on these proposed changes?
Our Collective Agreement sets out a clear plan for how the University will consult with staff around changes to our structures, that includes consulting with staff on proposed changes. Consultation with staff began on 14 July and has been extended until 18 August. Staff have been given the option of a paid consultation day, enabling them to review the documentation and submit any feedback. Our Senior Executive Group and other leaders have also hosted over 60 drop-in sessions for staff to help answer any questions they may have. We have also undertaken a range of consultation sessions with students and members of the community throughout this process to ensure we gather a range of feedback on the proposal.
- What is happening to the Bachelor of Arts in the regions?
We have created a new online Bachelor of Arts that will be offered across our regional campus network, which will increase the number of majors in the BA from 3 to 14 and give students many more subjects and electives to choose from. It will provide a more vibrant educational experience with a wider range of choice than we can offer on-campus to small cohorts, including opportunities to do majors offered through other schools including the La Trobe Business School and the School of Psychology and Public Health.
All regional students will have the added benefit of our Regional Connect program that delivers on-campus (and virtual) activities relevant to the local context and which are designed to enrich their experience and enhance their employability. The program provides a range of face-to-face and virtual services and introduces students to local business and industry partners while providing access to all of our on-campus services and facilities and giving students a campus-based social life with their peers.
- Why is the University not using existing reserves to cover the financial loss?
The profound impact of COVID-19 requires us to make structural changes to the University to address our ongoing, annual expenditure and bring sustainability to our operations. We have utilised the available component of reserves as part of preparing the proposal for review.
- What is happening to Indigenous support?
The University is proposing to reconfigure how we support our Indigenous students by introducing dedicated Indigenous Student Advisors and creating dedicated roles to support Indigenous student engagement on our campuses. This proposal will see increased specialist support for Indigenous students as well as a continuation of the services already delivered by this team. This reconfiguration includes an additional 20% increase in investment in our Indigenous Strategy and Education Division.
- How can students get involved in this process?
We are keen to hear feedback from students on these proposed changes. Please raise these through your student association or by emailing email@example.com before 5pm on Wednesday 18 August. Any decision to proceed will be made by the Senior Executive Group after considering feedback from students, staff and stakeholders.
- What is happening to casual staff in this process?
Casual staff are not impacted by the proposed changes, however we have created opportunities for staff on casual contracts to apply for continuing roles as part of our recruitment process.
- What is happening to the School of Molecular Sciences? Will I still be able to do honours next year?
Whilst the School of Molecular Sciences is proposed to be disestablished, all of the existing disciplines will relocate to other schools. There will be no impact on teaching and you will still have opportunities to undertake research programs.
- Are the long wait times for students to access well being services going to be addressed?
The University is committed to supporting student wellbeing and we have endeavoured to provide as much support as possible for student during the pandemic. We have seen an increased demand in our wellbeing services over the past 18 months. For this reason, we are proposing to triple the number of staff supporting our Wellbeing Connect Service and increase the number of counsellors, both at Bundoora and our regional campuses.
- How will La Trobe provide ongoing supervision for candidates who are impacted by staff departures in schools.
Many schools will see minimal impact or no impact on HDR supervisors. In areas where candidates may be impacted, schools will work closely with affected candidates to work out the best future supervision arrangements – which may include honorary appointments, co-supervision, expertise drawn from other institutions. Candidates who are affected by supervision losses with a demonstrated impact on the progress of their projects may request extensions to candidature and/or scholarships of up to 3 months. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis over and above the extension provisions introduced as a consequence of COVID. We have so far supported about 90 candidates with scholarship extensions in the last ~15 months
Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students)
La Trobe University