The University of Auckland has decided to hold its first semester exams online regardless of Covid-19 alert levels – before the term has even started.
This week, the university had already shifted summer school examinations online, which finished yesterday [Wednesday], due to Auckland being in alert level 3. Semester one begins on March 1, 2020.
In an email to staff last night, seen by NZME, Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater said the decision to put exams online was made because there was still the possibility of disruption from changing alert levels.
"One of the very clear messages we heard from both students and staff last year is that clarity and predictability are vitally important in preparing for examinations and tests," she said.
The university came under fire last September from concerned students when it tried to return to campus for the final weeks of its second 2020 semester.
It ultimately remained on campus after the move was questioned by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield and then also put its exams online last-minute due to a Covid-19 community case in November.
Auckland University Students' Association president Anamika Harirajh said they have been advocating for clarity around "big decisions" since. "We knew that students felt a sense of uncertainty ... it was really disruptive."
But Harirajh was glad to see the university be proactive now. "The fact the call was made early on, well before the semester even started, is definitely going to give students peace of mind and we're able to plan for the semester ahead," she said.
"We told the university from very early on that we needed consistency, that if these big decisions about assessments were going to be made they needed to be made early on.
"And students and staff, in particular, needed to be notified so that courses and lectures can be tailored accordingly."
Harirajh claimed the decision was actually supposed to be announced by the university's senior executive last Friday - before Auckland went into alert level 3 – but was delayed at midnight on Sunday.
"Then it was supposed to be announced on Monday but Auckland went into level 3 so that didn't happen," she said.