Author, senior university academic and head of first year curriculum Dr John Weldon failed Year 12; but that didn't stop him from achieving great professional success.

Here he speaks passionately from a unique perspective, about the importance of education for everyone – regardless of a score they once received – and how VU is making that happen.

Dr John Weldon hasn’t let one obstacle define him.

Why should a moment in time at the end of Year 12 define you?

I failed Year 12, yet here I am now, Head of First Year Curriculum at Victoria University. The philosophy at VU is to help students into education and get the most out of it.

Should universities simply slam the door shut and disenfranchise people with untapped potential? That is what many do and some don’t understand or appreciate what we do.

We are giving students the opportunity to find out if university is for them, if that course is for them, if they want to move to something different here or at our Polytechnic, or if they think, 'I’m not ready now, but I tell you what, I might come back later in the year or next year'.

There are students who realise, 'yes, this is for me, I now understand what education is about and where it can take me'. And we have proudly brought them in and given them that chance to find out.

We have broken away from the traditional broadcast model of other Australian universities where academics stand on a pulpit and tell you what to do.

We get down with students and take them on a journey with us. Success for us is different to the old universities and it’s incredibly rewarding. Ours is not the same old view of what a university is.

We give every first-year student the maximum chance of mastering their units and performing well. Studying a single unit for four weeks, being assessed and progressing to the next unit is perfect for students of every ability. They are all getting immediate feedback, knowing after just four weeks exactly how they’re tracking.

Throughout the semester, we have milestones that reward success and help identify and address any problems much earlier. When you mix four units over a 12 or 16-week period at the old universities, you don’t have benchmarks along the way. You are just hit with a rush of exams at the end – and a harsh reality check.

Our way of teaching allows students to miss up to four weeks yet only miss one unit. A month-long break at the old universities due to illness, holidaying or a short-term work contract can wipe out all four units in that semester and be totally disheartening.

We are more flexible, and more in tune with the 21st century lifestyle and workstyle.

Fans and snipers alike might call us a Netflix university. An old university is the TV station of yesteryear that dictated you would watch a blockbuster like Game of Thrones on Sunday night at 8.30pm – but we give our students the freedom to choose to say yes or to say, 'no, I’m going to watch 11 episodes on Saturday, starting at three in the morning'.

We are the university that says, 'you can do more of that'. We’re about planning around you rather than planning you around us.

We’re modern, 21st century and user-driven, not producer-driven. We are flexible, fitting around your lifestyle and focused on the student, not focused on a timetable.

John Weldon is senior lecturer, author, freelance writer and award-winning media relations professional. Find John on Twitter or The Conversation.

A portrait of the author as a young man.

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Riley Campbell, Law

I've been talking to my friends from other universities and they say that their life, their university life in particular is a lot more hectic and crazy than what I personally am experiencing at Victoria University.

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Why is studying with more focus better?

Annabelle Goonasekera, Psychology

It reduces the fact that I can't procrastinate, but it does increase the fact that I have to focus on my degree more, which is really good.

Declan O'Brien, Sport and Exercise Science

There's one class to focus on so you can really commit to that class and you can do your assigned homework or your assignments in a way that suits you. And you're not having to deal with five, six other classes at one time.

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  • “I've loved every moment”
  • “Eliminates the stress”
  • “I can focus and be happy”

Liam Mulcahy, Education

If I was to do four subjects at a time, and four assignments at a time, it'd be a lot of coffee-fuelled nights and coffee-fuelled days - trying to get it all done. Whereas, yeah, it's a lot less stressful doing just one at a time rather than four at once.

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What makes the classes so different?

Annabelle Goonasekera, Psychology

It's way easier to make friends this way because the classrooms are quite small too. And with the way the classrooms are very interactive, you're constantly discussing with other people. Even just the way the content has been created, you kind of have to talk to people and make friends.

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  • “My friends at other unis are very jealous”
  • “Our teacher is really fun”
  • “It’s tailor made teaching”

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How does it compare to high school?

Ethan Ellul

I'm there three days a week, three hours each day, and it's Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.

Definitely easier, because in high school you're obviously juggling a lot more subjects and you're there a lot more often. But with the first year model, yeah, you're focusing on one thing at a time and so, yeah, it's a lot more easy to manage it all.

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