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### Students Criticize Top Law School for Series of Failures

Feb 16, 2024 – 5.00am

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Students studying at the top-tier law school in Australia are facing a nightmarish experience due to a series of administrative blunders and mismanagement, hindering their progress in completing their degree programs.

Those enrolled in Melbourne University’s esteemed juris doctor program describe the year 2023 as a cascade of errors and note that 2024 does not promise much improvement.

“The Errors Compound the Situation”: Melbourne University law student Michelle Smith questions the institution’s quality ranking due to administrative challenges. Arsineh Houspian

Issues reported include receiving incorrect assessments, significant delays in exam result releases leading to missed supplementary assessments, conflicting instructions from exam invigilators, and the inability to enroll in elective courses due to limited availability, resulting in some students facing hurdles in degree completion.

Students highlight a surge in enrolment, up by 33 percent since 2019, which has strained the faculty’s resources. Moreover, the university’s emphasis on research, pivotal for its global rankings, has seemingly diverted attention from the teaching aspect of academia.

“Lawschool is inherently demanding, but the series of mishaps and communication lapses have exacerbated the situation,” remarked Michelle Smith, a seasoned professional with a background in corporate giants like Goldman Sachs and Willis Towers Watson, who opted for Melbourne University based on its global ranking. She is set to embark on her third year as a juris doctor student when the semester commences on February 26.

“If you are luring potential students with your Times Higher Education ranking and charging $50,000 annually, transparency regarding administrative capabilities, exam management, and result dissemination is imperative,” Smith added.

The Australian Financial Review has engaged with numerous students and reviewed multiple online platforms where students express their distress and anxiety over the ongoing challenges.

A post on an MLS student Facebook group recounted an international student’s ordeal during an exam, necessitating an additional assessment due to a panic attack induced by seating and paper errors, further aggravated by seat changes midway through the exam. Despite efforts to seek clarification on the supplementary exam details, the student’s outreach to the faculty remained unanswered.

Another student shared their frustration when an online supplementary exam quiz vanished from the assignments tab, seeking prompt resolution channels.

On November 15, a student voiced concerns about being assigned a two-hour exam instead of the scheduled three-hour session. With futile attempts to elicit a response from the exams office, the student sought alternative points of contact for redressal.

Out of the 1434 students enrolled in the juris doctor program in 2023, the cohort comprised 883 domestic fee-paying students, 335 in government-supported positions, and 216 full-fee international students. The program generates approximately \(50 million in revenue, with 228 fee-paying students benefitting from scholarships ranging from \)1500 to $45,000 in 2023.

Efforts by students to seek clarifications from the faculty and university registrar have been marred by delays. However, an email from Dean Matthew Harding and other senior executives on December 8 acknowledged the “significant challenges in timely and accurate result releases for various subjects, as well as the scheduling of supplementary exams and handling of alternative exam outcomes.”

Onboarding New Staff

The communication highlighted an influx of new staff members preceding the exam period, albeit hindered by their adjustment period in new roles.

Despite assurances, students in early February continued to encounter delays in elective results, supplementary assessments, and course enrolments.

In response to queries from The Australian Financial Review, Professor Harding acknowledged the assessment, exam, and result-related issues over the past year, expressing regret for any inconvenience caused to students. He reassured students of the ongoing review of the academic support office.

Melbourne University emerged prominently in a national issue involving 32 universities and 30,000 staff, with Melbourne accounting for over a quarter of the $160 million underpayment discrepancies.

Professor Harding emphasized the faculty’s commitment to enhancing the student experience and academic support, particularly through the new faculty strategy aimed at bolstering teaching programs and student welfare.

Julie is the Education editor with over two decades of experience as a writer, journalist, and editor. Connect with Julie on . Email Julie at

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