Macleay College Denies Cancelling Journalism Degree After Staff And Student Backlash

Students' lives have been thrown into chaos, with one initially fearing deportation.

macleay college journalism photo

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Last Friday afternoon, aspiring journalists studying at Macleay College were heading home after their second week of classes.

Many of them had been attracted to the college by its small class sizes, offering an intimate teaching experience designed to teach all of the hands-on skills journalists need in the modern workplace.

They weren’t expecting an email, which arrived in inboxes at 5:15pm, informing them that both the Bachelor and Diploma of Journalism at Macleay would “no longer be running”, due to low student enrolment numbers.

The announcement shocked staff and students alike, with some lecturers reportedly receiving the news at the same time as students midway through classes. The news has kicked off days of confusion at the college, with students still waiting for an official comment or apology about what happened. 

Confused And Very Angry

First-year Journalism student at Macleay College Chelsea Caffery told Junkee that she had changed universities specifically to study at the college, cut back her job hours, and spent weeks applying for Youth Allowance to facilitate the transfer. 

“I had heard incredible things about the course, and in those two weeks I was absolutely loving it, it was seriously the best thing I had ever done,” Chelsea told Junkee. “The people, the teachers, the experiences we’d had was absolutely incredible and exceeded my expectations of what I thought the course would be. I think that’s why it’s so upsetting and so shocking when that got ripped out from under our feet.” 

The announcement that the college would no longer be running the Bachelor of Journalism was sent out on Friday afternoon. Chelsea says that she “broke down” after reading the news. 

“I was so confused, because I was just in a class and we had been given homework for next Friday. I was just so confused if I was reading it wrong or if it had been sent my mistake,” Chelsea told Junkee. 

International Students Worried About Visa Requirements

An international student at the college, Ashar Khan told Junkee that the email was an “absolute shock”. Ashar had moved to Australia from Pakistan on a student visa, and said that his decision to study at Macleay was “the best decision I had ever made”. 

The news that his course was no longer running made Ashar immediately distressed that he would breach the terms of his visa.  

“I have to go back to my country or maybe apply for a new visa and start all over again, it’s impossible to think of at the moment now,”  Ashar said. 

Because international students can’t access HELP Debt support, Ashar has already spent approximately $35,000 at Macleay College on the degree. He says that despite his calls and emails to the university, he hasn’t received any apology or communication from student services.

“No compensation — nothing. I’m kind of in limbo, I don’t know what to do,” Ashar said.

Since the announcement, the college has offered students in their final year of the Bachelor of Journalism a “teach-out” option, giving students like Ashar the chance to complete the degree.  Other students have been directed towards the another course the college offers, the Bachelor of Digital Media. Students like Chelsea say that’s a “totally different degree”, and they’re hesitant to trust the college again. 

“We’ve lost a bit of trust in Macleay now, and would be uncertain changing into a different one of their degrees if this was to happen again,” Chelsea told Junkee. 

With the census date of March 18th rapidly approaching, students at the college only have a few days to decide on a course of action. 

Macleay’s Head of Journalism has recently been made redundant

Macleay’s Head of Journalism Sue Stephenson told Junkee that she has recently been made redundant as a result of the course being axed. She says that prior to the course closing she was working seven days per week, despite officially only being paid for three.

“Everyone works over and above,” Sue told Junkee. “It’s been cut back so much that everyone is shouldering multiple responsibilities. The librarian for instance is also in charge of recruitment. Because the owner cut cleaning hours back, I literally had to clean toilets ahead of one class.” 

After being officially informed by College management about the decision to cancel the Journalism Bachelor last Friday afternoon, Sue was left to deal with the fallout. 

“Because the owner cut cleaning hours back, I literally had to clean toilets ahead of one class.” 

“I was told by the owner to stop messaging the support team because I was causing them anxiety. Staff were then told not to answer student messages and to ‘enjoy their weekends’,” Sue said. 

Since being made redundant, Sue says she has been threatened with legal action by college management.  “I am redundant, but genuinely relieved to be out of there,” Sue said. “I can’t see any action against me or the students holding up.”

After repeatedly trying to call the college to confirm the experiences of students and staff, Junkee visited Macleay College’s Sydney campus to obtain a statement.

After identifying myself to a communications manager at the college, the manager told Junkee that Macleay hadn’t “cancelled” the Journalism Bachelor, and that there was a lot of “misinformation” around the media’s reporting of the story.

After being brought to Macleay College’s owner Sarah Stavrow’s office to ask about this misinformation, a representative told Junkee that they were declining to comment on the story.

Charles Rushforth is a staff writer for Junkee. He tweets about news, music and culture at @_rushforth_