Uni online study shutdown 'discriminatory'

Disability advocacy groups have slammed a decision by leading Australian universities to end remote learning options for students.

Students from the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney who began their degrees online will need to show up in person from next year.

The University of Sydney said a decision by the national regulator requiring all international students return to on-campus learning influenced their decision for domestic students.

"We've been considering for some time how we will transition away from the remote teaching model we developed as a crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic," a spokesperson told AAP.

"Courses and units that were not designed to be delivered online do not provide the same high-quality experience as face-to-face classes."

Disability groups say the decision means students at increased COVID risk will struggle to finish their degrees.

"Failing to offer a safe and accessible pathway into study for people who are immunocompromised or at risk is not just poor business, it's discriminatory," advocate Samantha Connor said.

"If you're an existing student and you've started your degree online with the expectation you'll be able to finish it online too, it's going to be incredibly tough."

When asked what support services were available for immunocompromised students, the University of Sydney said it followed NSW health guidelines.

The university encouraged students to consult health professionals and said COVID-19 would be managed.

The University of Melbourne said if students were worried about showing up to campus, they should ask for learning adjustments.

"The university may make reasonable education adjustments on a case-by-case basis for students in need of support with their studies, including students with disability and students with an ongoing medical condition," a spokesperson said.

Ms Connor said disability adjustments included scribes in lectures, longer time for exam sittings, or completing an individual presentation rather than a group presentation.

"You're getting a lesser degree of learning, even if the university ultimately says you can do the semester online personally, that's a very different learning experience to attending an online course with 10 or 15 other students and interacting with tutorials," she said.

"People with disabilities deserve to learn and interact alongside everyone else."

The National Union of Students also slammed the decision.

"When students are having to work low-paid, casualised jobs in order to survive in the cost of living crisis, all the while trying to complete a university degree, it's impossible if a university isn't being flexible," National Union of Students president Georgie Beatty said.

When universities were forced to begin offering online options during the pandemic, opportunities opened up for people who were previously shut out.

"Why would we cut back on something that was such a positive coming out of the pandemic? Why not continue doing it when it makes things 1000 times more accessible," Ms Beatty said

The La Trobe University student has been studying online for three years, and if her university shifts to on-campus study, she will find it hard to finish her degree.

"I work three jobs, and half the time my tutorials are in my lunch break, I can't get into uni and come back out and I need to work as many hours in order to just make rent," she said.

University of New South Wales said dual-delivery classes may continue to be offered.

"This approach allows teachers the flexibility to harness excellent innovations in the digital space developed over the past few years," a spokesperson said

Canberra's Australian National University is yet to make a decision on return-to-campus plans for 2023.