The University of Wollongong is Australia’s fourth best university according to the Australian Government’s MyUniversity website.

The website, which was launched yesterday to help students compare the thirty-nine public universities in Australia, reported the university scored well in key areas including graduate employment rate, student services and public transport access.

Some criticisms included the lack of legal assistance for students, inadequate IT support and a failure to prioritise first-year students for accommodation.

President of the Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association Peter Hughes, agreed student legal assistance was definitely something the university should consider, especially since the introduction of the new student services fee this year.

“Two weeks ago we had a student representative forum, a cross-section of the student community which made recommendations where the fees should go,” Mr. Hughes said.

“Legal services was I think in the top 3 priorities. Students are at the crossroads of their lives; they’re the ones that are most often going to need legal services, but they’re also the ones least able to afford it”.

Mr. Hughes said other universities that do offer student legal services primarily deal with immigration and visa issues, and questions or disputes regarding tenancy.

The website has attracted some criticism too, including a failure to recognise the university’s student theatre and art galleries.

David Toll, Executive Manager of the Faculty of Creative Arts, explained that the university provides several areas for displaying student and staff work, along with pieces owned by the university.

“During an assessment period you can find pieces of artwork that’s done by design students, visual art students, that changes entirely from day to day,” Mr Toll said.

Along with the Digital Media Centre at Wollongong’s Innovation Campus, Mr. Toll also explained that the university has many performance spaces for students.

“Our main performance space […] is used for classes, but it’s also used for commercial purposes. So the theatre and drama students run plays or performances, and people can pay online and come along and participate and watch and enjoy these performances.

“That happens on a regular basis; better than one a month.

“So whoever put it on the website, I don’t think they’ve done their research”.

One area of controversy was student demographics, with the website reporting that international students make up 39% of the university’s undergraduate body- the nation’s highest by a big margin.

These figures also include the students of the University of Wollongong campus in Dubai though, who make up nearly 10% of the university’s total student body.

Representatives from other criticised departments at the university, including Information Technology Services and UOW Living Accommodation Services, were unavailable for comment.

UOW Living did open a new space this year for 144 students on the site of the former Ibis Hotel, and a $40 million, 360-bed expansion of Campus East is scheduled to begin in 2013.

Words: Harrison Vesey
Photos: Kieran Watson
Audio: Alison Donnellan

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