Why is UNSW adopting a new academic calendar?

A key priority of UNSW’s 2025 Strategy is the development of the Scientia Educational Experience (SEE). The Scientia Educational Experience aims to give students an opportunity to personalise and tailor their university experience, and provide graduates with the attributes necessary for success in the 21st century. The development of the UNSW3+ academic calendar is the first step in this process.

UNSW3+ will offer:

  • Integration of opportunities into the UNSW experience, better preparing students for the work environment
  • Alignment with Northern Hemisphere university calendars, creating flexibility for more global experiences.
  • Flexibility to spread study load over the course of the year
  • More time in each term to devote to each course, improving depth of understanding
  • The ability for UNSW to grow over the next ten years
  • A more vibrant campus life through greater optimisation of the facilities

The new calendar does not, of itself, generate revenue - normal study load over the year is the same, and fees will not be increased because of the calendar. It does create an opportunity for our capacity to grow, and revenue from student growth will be invested in the student experience, with more than $450m additional funds allocated to the education experience to 2025. This investment will help UNSW to join the elite rank of global universities. Investment areas will include digital and physical infrastructure, equity and research scholarships, and entrepreneurship.

Student engagement

2025 Strategy

The 2025 Strategy document released in October 2015 indicated the intention of UNSW to put forward an alternative calendar proposal for discussion with staff and students. Since then UNSW has been investigating and engaging on a variety of different alternative calendar options for UNSW as part of this proposal.

Student surveys

UNSW conducted a comprehensive student survey to measure preferences as to different calendar models, with more than 5,000 responses received. While there was some support for the current semester calendar model, 63% of respondents preferred a calendar model different to that currently in use. Of those who preferred an alternative model, the UNSW3+ model was most popular.

Feedback received from the survey included that a reasonable length summer holiday was important, as was the capacity to spread study load over the year, and the possibility to complete studies earlier than under the current model. Postgraduate students were particularly keen on an additional study term. One thing that was clear is that there was no single calendar model that will suit the needs of all students.

A second survey was sent in November 2016 asking for student feedback and concerns about UNSW3+. Approximately 4,500 responses were received. The main concerns - holidays, fees/visas/benefits, education quality, exchange, fees - were addressed on the current students website.

Student leaders

In addition to the first student survey, engagement has occurred with student leaders through a number of forums and meetings:

  • Student Representative Council
  • Academic Board
  • University Academic Programs Committee
  • Postgraduate Council
  • UNSW Council


Information on UNSW3+ has been available on the Current Students website since September 2016, and regular enquiries have been received and responded to.

Student focus groups

12 student focus groups have been held. The focus groups included a mixture of domestic undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as international students. The focus groups discussed the features UNSW3+ and the other models that were considered, ongoing student engagement, student transition to UNSW3+ in 2019, and extracurricular experiences that students would like UNSW to offer with UNSW3+. The key outcomes of the focus groups were that students were concerned about the potential impact on internships, part time work and the availability of courses; however participants were generally supportive of the change.

On campus

ARC hosted a UNSW3+ Q&A session for students on the Library Lawn, attended by Professor Merlin Crossley (DVC Education), as well as a panel of UNSW academics and professional staff. The session was hosted by Aislinn Stein-Magee (SRC President), who asked the panelists a series of questions that had been posed by students online in the lead up to the event. The session was broadcast to all students on the UNSW radio station; Blitz radio. Approximately 250 students attended the event. The key concerns raised by students were workload, internships and education quality.


UNSW is conducting further engagement during 2017.


You are encouraged to email any feedback to StrategyOffice2025@unsw.edu.au

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