University denies allegations of deliberately failing international students

Written by Jade Bate

The University of Sydney has denied allegations that hundreds of its international students unreasonably failed courses in their post-graduate Masters in Commerce degree.

One in three students studying the Critical Thinking in Business course and one in 10 studying the Succeeding in Business course failed.

Both are required to complete a post-graduate Masters in Commerce.

Many who failed were Chinese international students, including second-year student Jinyuan Li.

Mr Li said that the high failure rate was abnormal and the course is subjective.

“For this course the uni said [students failed] because of their language skills, which are considered poor,” he said.

Many students have attempted to appeal informally against their marks, with little or no success.

Mr Li claims the university is deliberately missing response deadlines for informal appeals which means many students don’t know what course to enrol in next semester.

“We are starting to lose faith in the university,” he said.

The university’s business school deputy dean, Professor John Shields, told the ABC that a new “mandatory exam at the end of the semester means that a student cannot pass the unit unless they pass the exam.”

Professor Shields said many international students struggled with the course due to its need of strong English communication skills.

“Many students come to us from mainland China, where the dominant mode of learning is what we would describe as passive learning rather than critical thinking and engaged learning,” he said.

However, he says that the university is doing all it can to help international students develop their communication skills.

“We have available to them a zero credit, zero fee and intensive unit to help them sharpen their comprehension and communication skills.”

It’s not unusual for universities to accept international students who may not have the adequate English skills to be studying an English-language based course.

An investigation on ABC’s Four Corners earlier this year revealed many international students were being accepted into Australian universities with scores of 4.5 on the International English Language Testing System, when the recommended minimum score is a 7.

International students are forced to pay their fees upfront, which can be extremely costly in the long term, especially if they’re failing courses.

It is estimated that the average international student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Australia will spend between $15,000 and $33,000 on their higher education fees.

(Photo credit: Cyrus via. Flickr)

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Jade Bate

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