8 December 1999

University of Queensland denies reports that 'failed' students will graduate

University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay has denied media reports that students who have clearly failed exams will be allowed to graduate because of industrial action by a few staff.

Professor Hay said the reports did not acknowledge the University's clear powers to decide who is or is not deserving of one of its awards and that the decision of a given lecturer was not final in awarding results.

He said the isolated staff bans on examination results meant the University was obliged to invoke measures to determine the results of affected students. It would uphold the "highest academic standards" in doing so.

"Those measures, entrenched in assessment rules, allow senior academics to make judgements on the student's performance throughout their University study.

"The University has for the past 85 years been graduating students and is well acknowleged for upholding the highest academic standards in awarding degrees," Professor Hay said.

"Those standards will not be compromised. Students will be dealt with on their merits and in the context of students' legitimate right to know how they have fared in their exams."

Fewer than 25 of UQ's 2000 academic staff have imposed industrial bans on results as part of a campaign for more pay, affecting approximately 250 students hoping to graduate. The Vice-Chancellor has used his power (listed in the 1999 Undergraduate Studies Handbook, part 7), to waive strict compliance with the assessment rules to avoid unpardonable delay in some students' final year examinations.

Under the arrangements currently being invoked by the University, some students who have clearly met all the requirements for their degrees will be allowed to graduate. However, not all affected students will be recommended for graduation at this stage.

"This matter is being conducted with the utmost integrity in difficult circumstances related to industrial action by a few staff," Professor Hay said.

"I have decided that the release of these results is not merely desirable but necessary in the face of this industrial action. These bans were imposed by a tiny minority of academics after an NTEU meeting where 36 members voted for the bans, 24 voted against, and five abstained.

"It would be morally indefensible for the University not to do all in its legitimate power to ensure that deserving students, having had good records over 95 per cent of their award programs, are not unfairly and seriously inconvenienced at the last moment by the actions of a few union members."

Further information: Meredith Jackson, Office of Marketing and Communications, telephone 07 3365 6060, mobile 0413 458 317.