For more than a year, lecturers and Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) have been in a dispute over better pay and working conditions.
But there are now fears that the resulting strike - which was called on Oct 1 - will impact some of the Melbourne-based institution's more than 6,000 students enrolled at SIM Global Education's (SIM GE) campus at Clementi Road. The New Paper (TNP) learnt yesterday of RMIT's plans to use staff from its campuses in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to assess Singaporean exam scripts for an examination scheduled from Monday to Nov 9.
Australia's National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) - the professional association covering all employees of universities - sees this as RMIT's way of working around the industrial action. NTEU, which according to its website represents more than 25,000 members, is staging the industrial action at a number of Australian universities, including RMIT.
The union's president, Ms Jeannie Rea, told TNP that an e-mail was sent to the staff of RMIT's Vietnam campuses offering them to assess the scripts.
Ms Rea argued that because the staff in Vietnam are not involved in course work for Singaporean students, RMIT is breaking its agreement with its Singapore provider SIM GE.
Usually, staff from Melbourne would set and mark the papers for its offshore students. Added Ms Rea: "There is now great concern by the staff of RMIT here that if this is done, the quality and integrity of the university would be compromised."