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Higher education should be for everyone

  • 29 October 2020
At the beginning of this year, in what was a spur of the moment decision, I applied to undertake a Masters degree. It had been a long time coming. Indeed, when I finished honours in 2002, I had planned to enter the workforce, enjoy not being utterly broke for a bit, then return to uni to begin my PhD. Seven years later, I finally realised that wasn’t going to happen so I enrolled in a graduate diploma to ‘dip my toes’ back in the world of academia with the view of continuing on. Again, that didn’t happen so eight years later, here I am again: only a couple of weeks away from submitting my final assessments for my Masters and seeing what I do next.

This year though has been a ‘unique’ year to study, to say the least. The impacts of COVID-19 on the sector have been not just trying, but simply devastating. I have not set foot in a classroom all year which, I have to admit, is one of the things I have always loved most about studying — the immersion within a learning environment. The other day I actually physically picked up a textbook. It was the first time I had read academic argument all year that had not been on a screen.

I’d had exposure to listening to lectures online before but attending online tutorials where everyone is a little square with a name on it and the opportunity to interact is non-existent is completely new. Essays remain the same arduous task they have always been but group assessment tasks prepared entirely via Zoom are a new form of hell. Struggling through this semester with both a bad neck and arm injury and ‘lockdown malaise’ has been rough.

All that being said though, that’s nothing compared to what I have seen the lecturers, tutors and support staff go through. I saw them, for example, have to move entire units online in mere days as governments shut down states. I have seen tutors try to co-ordinate discussions with students who are sometimes unresponsive and often dispersed across the world.

The Indigenous support centre has been in continuous contact to ensure that despite the situation, my journey and that of other Indigenous students is a smooth one. Navigating government systems designed to support uni students are hard enough without having to walk students through it virtually from home.

So to see all