Monash Extends a Backhander

One of the better offerings for Victoria’s senior students is Extension Studies. Corresponding roughly to America’s Advanced Placement program, ES permits a school student to undertake a university subject as part of VCE, albeit as a lower weighted, fifth or sixth subject.

The extension studies program is not without its flaws. In particular, there are no externally defined curricula or standards, with, rather, each participating university shaping their ES subjects to match their own university subjects. Consequently, there is significant variance in the content, quality and difficulty of the ES subjects offered. This also creates issues for the AP aspect of the program; on occasion, students aligned with one university have had difficulty receiving credit from another; this subject mismatching has also been exacerbated by the arrogance of some university administrators. It can also be a non-trivial task finding keen and competent teachers for ES which, as always, means the wealthier private schools benefit much more than public schools. And, some weirdness from VTAC hasn’t helped matters.

Nonetheless, extension studies functions reasonably well overall and can be of genuine value to a keen or strong student. Apart from the immediate reward of richer study while at school, ES can give a student a jump on their university education and effectively lower their uni fees. (The fees, one is always obliged to mention, which were introduced by this Labor asshole.)

Which is why Monash University’s decision this year to cease offering extension studies is so disappointing, and so annoying. This has created the ridiculous situation where the John Monash Science School, which is, you know, Monash University’s science school, is having to look elsewhere for their extension studies. And of course it is not just future JMSS students that are being screwed around.

What was Monash’s reason? All they wrote to ES subject administrators was, “In recent years, there has been a consistent decline in the number of students taking up this opportunity due to a range of factors.”

Yeah, well, maybe. Maybe numbers have declined, although enrolment in mathematics (with which we’ve been associated) has been healthy and stable. And, Monash might have mentioned that amongst the “factors” in that “range” are Monash’s relatively high cost for a participating student, combined with Monash’s effective discouragement of the participation of smaller schools.

It’s difficult to tell what is really going on, what is the real reason for Monash’s decision. The obvious suspicion is it has to do with money, although the program is not administratively heavy and ought to be pretty cheap to run; indeed, it’s the individual departments that have to pay for the academics to teach and administer and grade the subjects, almost certainly at a loss. The Mathematics Department has always lost money on the deal, and has never whined about it.

The other suspicion is that Monash’s extension program wasn’t attracting sufficient school students to study at Monash, whatever “sufficient” might mean. In contrast, the Mathematics Department has never worried about whether the program attracts more students to do mathematics at Monash; they’ve just accepted that that’s what a principled Department should do.

So, what was it? Was it Monash engaging in particularly obtuse neoliberal bean counting? Or, was it Monash disregarding any notion of community obligation? We’re not sure. But, we’re guessing the answer is “Yes”.

7 Replies to “Monash Extends a Backhander”

  1. I find this to be a real shame. I’m a current Year 12 student studying UMEP Maths, and absolutely love it. It afforded a significant opportunity to experience a breadth and depth of maths that is simply not afforded by VCE Mathematics offerings at all.

    1. Thanks, Tau. I couldn’t agree more. If VCE was mathematically rich, it wouldn’t be so annoying. But VCE ain’t rich by a longshot.

  2. Anybody who has worked at any university in the past decade will know that universities are run by innumerate managers, who are only interested in profits. If enrolments aren’t continually increasing, then those offerings will be ruthlessly eliminated. And even if enrolments might be increasing, they also must be returning an ever increasing profit. There is no sense pointing out that running large inexpensive programs (such as first year business subjects) can prop up smaller ones, because the managers don’t understand averages. This means that any university not in the GO8 is rapidly becoming a glorified training college, and even in the GO8 arts and philosophy are being squeezed out.

  3. The decision is totally contemptible, as are all the f!c%holes who made the decision and supported it. I’ll bet the decision would never have been made if ATM’s ahem I mean international students were enrolling in the program. There is no doubt the decision was based on money and a complete disregard of any notion of community obligation.

    What should also be mentioned is that the Monash Scholars Program was also – briefly – terminated until a total %h$t storm from schools and academics apparently forced (for now) a reversal.

    Roman Empire University should hang its head in shame.

    @Geoff: I believe both words – as well as others – are appropriate for that particular person.

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