UNSW3+: New academic calendar

Published: 21 March 2017

UNSW3+: New academic calendar

An important message from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education

UNSW is now working towards the implementation of a new academic calendar (UNSW3+) in 2019. This follows the initial proposal in 2015, followed by extensive consultation and the announcement of the decision in late 2016. The 2019 UNSW3+ calendar will offer students:

  • Greater flexibility to spread their study load over the year
  • The ability to focus more on each course (since we will move from 4 per semester to up to 3 courses per term)
  • More opportunities for embedding internships, volunteering and other activities into the UNSW experience
  • Better alignment with international university calendars, facilitating more global experiences
  • A more vibrant campus life through more consistent use of facilities across the year.

The UNSW3+ calendar is also designed to:

  • Reduce the stress associated with studying, since students will be able to focus on up to 3 rather than 4 courses
  • Reduce the pressure on classrooms, labs and facilities, since the load will be spread
  • Provide opportunities for staff who would like to dedicate themselves more fully to teaching, with obvious benefits for both those staff and their students.

I am grateful for the important points that have been drawn to our attention via feedback channels and look forward to continuing to discuss the details with students, staff and our external community to ensure a smooth implementation.

I would, however, like to correct some misunderstandings that may be circulating.

­Centrelink payments – A normal study load remains at 8 courses a year and a full-time study load is 6 courses spread over the three terms. Centrelink payments and visa requirements will not change.

Education quality – Education quality will not be reduced. Teaching up to 3 courses in 10 weeks actually provides more time for each course than 4 courses in 12 weeks. Additionally, the entire curriculum will be reviewed, with the Inspired Learning Initiative committing $75m to improve, upgrade and modernise the education on offer at UNSW.  

Internships – One major advantage of the calendar is that students will be able to free up time for internships, volunteering and research placements without delaying graduation and without losing student benefits.

Engagement/Consultation – Throughout 2016, we engaged with students through reference groups, meetings with student representative groups, surveys and an open student forum on the library lawn. We look forward to continued engagement through the two year implementation period.

Mental health – The move to having up to 3 rather than 4 courses per term and the flexibility to reduce load during high pressure periods should enable students to better manage stress and mental health.

Profit – The new calendar will not in itself generate revenue - normal study load over the year will remain the same, and fees will not be increased because of UNSW3+. It does enhance our capacity to grow, to use our campus more, and to offer opportunities to more students. As a not-for-profit organisation UNSW re-invests revenues back in education and research. The UNSW 2025 Strategy lists $450m additional funds to be allocated to the Scientia Education Experience, which to our knowledge is the greatest single commitment to enhancing education in the sector.

Staff numbers – There has been a suggestion that the move to a new calendar will be associated with staff cuts. This is not the case. In fact, expanding the university’s offerings will allow us to create more jobs.

Finally I would like to congratulate students on helping us to shape the UNSW3+ calendar and I recognise how much work has been involved for our student leaders. We made the decision to introduce the 2019 UNSW3+ calendar in order to improve the educational experience for our students and to enable us to join the elite rank of global universities. 

I look forward to working with the new leaders to continue the culture of positive cooperation between staff and students that characterises UNSW.

For more information I would encourage you to visit student.unsw.edu.au/new-calendar.


Best wishes,
Professor Merlin Crossley
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education
UNSW Sydney