Welcome to the Hunger Games of university enrolment.

The fingers of more than 1.6 million new and returning university students are hovering over keyboards this week. 

They're in the race to secure preferred class times, and workable timetables for the Autumn semester. And it's a scramble. Despite being likened to The Hunger Games, fortunately, more than one will survive, but the competition to nab a place in certain classes can be brutal, according to mature-age Creative Arts student Stefanie Schultz.

“It’s on par with buying Splendour tickets, if you ask me. Watching the clock, refreshing as soon as the time ticks over, racing to get the one you want, and then they are full by the time you get through to the next screen. I’ve had to get other people to do it for me when I’ve been at work,” Stefanie said.

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Video via ABC.

Third-year UWS nursing student Ashley Kendon agreed.

“Securing tutorial spots is almost an Olympic sport,” she said.

“Trying to get the right tutorial day and time is so important, due to work commitments. These are essential to getting through a Uni degree with some sort of study/work/life balance.”

And getting it right, is not merely a preference, but a matter of survival for many, according to Melbourne University undergraduate, Oscar.


“Otherwise we could not afford to pay the rent and eat, as well as other inescapable costs like your phone. The timetabling system can feel ruthless. Many people’s jobs are inflexible with hours, so having a one or two-hour tutorial on one of the days you can work is very annoying. The whole deal definitely causes a lot of grief,” he said.

The financial challenges and the difficulty managing competing demands on students' time are not lost on universities, according to a University of Wollongong spokesperson.

“Wherever possible we endeavour to provide students with a variety of options for class times, knowing that what works for one, may not suit another,” they said.

“This year we have been able to commence the tutorial enrolment window up to two weeks earlier than previously, in order to manage other commitments such as employment and childcare.”

But with commitments further impacted by the soaring cost of living, and this week’s interest rates jump, Stefanie said the juggle places pressure on the already fragile mental and physical health of some students.

“Returning now as a mature age student I thought things would be vastly different, as I have the privilege of a partner who can support me. Turns out not so much. We have had to make significant sacrifices in order for me to study full-time and pay the bills. We have changed our lifestyle, the way we eat, what we do. We have had serious discussions about dropping to part-time uni just so that I can have an extra day to earn money,” she said.

Government support is also a bugbear for some, who claim funding has not kept pace with inflation.

“It seems to me, 20 or so years ago, government support for students was enough to pay rent, bills, eat and even to party too. Now it’s barely enough to cover rent, and it hasn’t been raised by a significant degree for a long time”, Oscar said. 


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QUT undergraduate student Huxley said even though his online job is unlikely to clash significantly with the timetable, the process is still fraught.

“It would be difficult, even with an online job, to scrape together enough money to afford rent near campus as well as food and all other living expenses. Luckily I have family relatively close so that it wouldn’t be impossible to commute,” he said. 

“With the rising cost of living and rental crisis in the area, it’s quite literally the thing determining whether some can even afford to study,” added Stefanie.

Astonishingly, Oscar said such are the financial and time pressures for students wanting to mesh study with work schedules, that “almost everyone I know now watches the recorded content at 2x the speed”.

The overarching advice for students is that they thoroughly familiarise themselves with the tutorial enrolment process, including key dates for subject and class enrolment.

Student support services, financial assistance and scholarships are also on offer at institutions throughout the country.

“Don’t leave tutorial enrolment to the last minute. Tutorial allocation works on a first-come, first-served basis,” they said.

“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour.”

Image: Getty.