I’ve spent 5 years studying at JCU, and there are things I liked about it and things I disliked. There are a lot of completely negative reviews here (which is fair enough), but I thought I’d like to offer a more balanced review if I can.
Pros: – The uni campus is small, so you get to know most of your lecturers personally. The lecturers I had here in Cairns were all extremely approachable and helpful. You also get to know your fellow students pretty easily (of course it’s not just going to happen – you have to say “hi” and smile to start things off). – I found the quality of teaching pretty good. There are some lecturers who don’t have a talent for teaching, and some subjects seemed a little disorganised, but overall the subject quality was pretty good in my opinion. – You can definitely pass, and you can definitely pass with excellent grades – it’s possible (I saw a review saying the opposite of this). The only caveat here is that you have to put in the work, because the uni stops holding your hand after the first year. I think that’s fair enough, but if you need more support, you might struggle. – Having said that, there are lots of support services on campus. The library has a Learning Centre where you can go for help with assignments, referencing, etc. The uni also offers PASS sessions, which are study sessions tailored to specific first-year subjects. My experience has been that people don’t bother going to PASS sessions – which is a shame, because they’re extremely helpful. You can also sign up for the Student Mentor program, and get access to a student who’s further along your own degree, and they can give you tips and support if needed. First year subjects are super supportive and scaffolded – so much so that I sometimes found all the help made it a little easy. You’re expected to learn more independently after first year though. – someone said this uni had a lot of people with “right-wing” attitudes. This has not been my experience. I’ve found everyone to be more liberal than conservative in outlook.
Cons – Administration. Almost anything to do with administration is going to complicated. Be prepared to go to the Student Center many times and tell them EXACTLY what you want them to do, or to get the email address for the person responsible for whatever it is you need. If you’re applying for credit, go through the units yourself and match them up and just bring the list to them for approval. I’ve had to fight my way through the bureaucracy a number of times, and the key is to know what you need, why, and where it says so in their policy/on their website. Having said that, no one’s ever been rude to me – just unhelpful. – High turnover of staff. Staff are completely overworked and shockingly underpaid. It’s an open secret that the money all goes to management; what the Vice Chancellor gets paid is widely known and, frankly, the amount is so large it’s immoral. Most of my favourite lecturers/tutors left the uni, leaving a gaping hole behind them. There are great people working here, but they’re worked to the bone and usually just end up going elsewhere. – A lot of video conferencing. If you’re on the Cairns campus, you’re lucky because the city is way nicer than Townsville. However, you can feel forgotten sometimes, as it seems the uni’s priority is Townsville, and Cairns plays second fiddle. We have fewer and fewer staff actually situated in Cairns – many of our lectures are video conferenced from Townsville. Having said that, we do tend to have live tutorials here, and the tutors are really helpful. And the staff that ARE on campus are treasures – helpful, personable, and trying their darndest to make up for whatever problems upper management is causing.
So, hopefully that’s been helpful for anyone considering JCU. It’s not totally awful – you learn something, get to know some great people, and come out with a degree – but it’s not a bump-free experience either. I’m happy to be graduating and have had some pretty tough going (always with admin things, never lecturers), but I’ve also had some good times at the uni. I’ve learned to treasure the people, to be resilient, and to slam my fist on the table occasionally when I REALLY need to get something done.