It’s the moment so many Gen Zs have been waiting for.
After a two-year hiatus, life looks set to trickle back to university and college campuses in Australia.
Sydney University’s vice-chancellor Professor Mark Scott made the announcement last week that face-to-face teaching would resume this semester after taking into consideration the advice of public health experts and lobbying from students.
It’s been an agonising wait for the 99% (nope, that’s not a typo) of newly-starting young university students who told us that they would prefer to study on-campus full-time (65%) or experience a hybrid of on-campus and online learning (34%). Just 1% said they wanted a purely online university experience.
In fact, online learning is so unpopular with Gen Zs, the prospect of remote university study has been a major deterrent for many school leavers when considering post-school pathways during the pandemic.
“After graduating from high school this year I was excited to go into university as soon as I possibly could,” an 18-year-old male from Queensland told us as part of our research into the effects of the pandemic on year 12 students.
“(However), ever since my brother has been doing online courses at university because of coronavirus it has made me less excited and motivated to see what’s to come. My brother talks about how it’s not the same working from home doing university and I definitely agree with where he’s coming from on my high school online learning perspective.
“I mainly just hope by the time I’m ready to be enrolled next year into a university course, that it will be proper classes.”
A 17-year-old from Tasmania said how her plans had been thrown into disarray by the prospect of purely online studies.
“Online uni seems incredibly tedious,” she said.
“A big part of why I wanted to go to uni was for the social networking side, which won’t be gained through online classes.”
A 17-year-old from NSW said he was totally against online learning.
“I learnt how difficult it is to remain engaged in learning and absorb information when doing online learning, thus negatively impacting my school performance and overall readiness for HSC,” he said.
“This has not only caused a lot of stress, but also changed my plans for after school. Initially I planned to go to university, however in light of many universities being online currently I will likely take a gap year in order to ensure my university experience is physical and does not involve online learning.”
A 17-year-old from Victoria said he had similar thoughts.
“Before COVID I was more interested in uni but now I think I’m more interested in an apprenticeship or taking a gap year because I would rather not have a HECS debt and have to possibly do uni online just like school this year,” he said.
But with the University of Technology Sydney, the Australian National University, and the University of Wollongong also announcing plans for campus classrooms to reopen, and acting Federal Education Minister Stuart Robert saying he expected all universities to do so, here’s hoping these recent school leavers will be back in class (and trying not to fall asleep in lectures) enjoying the full university experience before they know it.