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How Will the Move to Trimesters Affect Graduate Recruitment Cycles?

Posted by Daniel Headford

Australian universities are making the move to trimesters – but are you adapting your student and graduate recruitment cycles to align with these changes?

Summer internship and formal law clerkship programs will suffer the most from the move to trimesters – here’s why you need to start thinking about.

How Do Trimesters Impact Recruitment?

Most universities offering formal trimesters promote them as a flexible learning choice for students. Students now have the opportunity to squeeze a 3-year degree into 2 years. The third trimester over the Summer months is rarely enforced; it’s still up to the individual student to decide if they want to study, work, or travel. Although, students on Youth Allowance may be affected.

However, there are students who see trimesters as an opportunity to fast-track their degree and graduate a year earlier. As recruiters, you might have trouble recruiting talent for your internships and graduate roles due to potential timeline clashes.

How Student Internship and Law Clerkship Programs Are Affected

Internships and clerkships can run for anywhere from 4-15 weeks over the Summer break, from December into the new year.

It will depend on the university, but some Trimester 3 students might not finish their studies until early December - after your program has commenced.

Also, trimester 1 classes the following year can commence as early as January, forcing some students to choose a fast-track graduation over valued work experience.

Law students will be most impacted by the change in study load. Formal law clerkship programs often run over the summer semester as this is when students have most full-time availability. However, any requirement to study during the summer trimester will influence their availability to participate. Longer-term placements might need to be reduced to fit into the condensed summer holiday period (from roughly 14 weeks to around 9 weeks).

Graduate Program Recruitment

It’s also likely Australia’s peak graduate recruitment season will be affected – it runs from late February to April. Most law and accounting firms recruit earlier in the year to snap up top talent before the majority of employers catch wind.

It’s probable that graduate program recruitment activities will now clash with trimester 1 final assessment and exam commitments – students aren’t known for their multi-tasking abilities!

What You Can Do

More universities will move their academic calendars into trimesters and adapt to different teaching patterns that offer students more choice and flexibility. As employers, you need to be aware of the potential impact these changes will have on your attraction and recruitment activities – especially now there’s no universal academic model.

If you source the majority of your students and graduates from a particular university that’s moving to trimesters, it’s a good idea to partner with the respective student societies and faculty support services and explore different arrangements that still benefit both parties.

You might need to take on a more flexible approach to your recruitment and use your discretion when offering placements based on individual student availability – it might not be ideal, but it’s more important you can secure top talent to your organisation!


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