"It's about getting more people in and out faster, which I do not think is a good thing," said student Hersha Cockol. "The terms are much shorter than the semester, but there is a need to cover the same content. It's very stressful work.
"A two-week break between the terms has caused all kinds of problems. It's not enough time to recover from the growing pace." In the longer run, she also cut internships and paid jobs that are aligned with school terms, such as tutoring and care after a while, she said.
The National Union of Higher Education also opposed the changes, with UNSW branch head Sarah Gregson, saying university faculty faced a puzzle.
"If they reduce the scope of the course to ease the student's stress, there is an opportunity for students to graduate without quality education that they need to do well in the workforce," she said.
Dr. Gregson accused government under-funding. "If employees and students were appropriately supported to study, learn and explore, the business model with which trimesterization can be concluded could rightly be rejected," she said.
UNSW professor Merlin Crosley, deputy chancellor (academic), said the new system gave students greater flexibility. For example, a part-time workload would now be one trimester course, while students who took three courses per term would have one trimester free.
It also resulted in fewer clashes in the schedule, less scheduled hours and a reduced load on the exam. "It has reduced campus pressure, and has allowed us to reduce the number of early morning and evening lectures," he said.
However, there were problems with teething problems, as some students were getting too much work. "We are looking to see if we are not a bit enthusiastic to give students more material and more estimates," he said.
Pre-trial periods – also known as studios – are also reduced. "I think the intensity of the pace of learning [means] we need to make sure that we have time to consolidate before the estimates, I think it's a challenge, "said Professor Crosley.
"We had to change so many things. It would be wrong to underestimate the monumental change, but it basically works."
The first students were less concerned about those who experienced the previous system, said one, an undergraduate engineer who wanted to be known only as Luke. "Getting out of four courses at school compared to three seems to have reduced the workload," he said.
"I know a few others who feel the same way, but they are not as loud as those who are here for a little longer."
There were similar tensions when the Technological University adopted a three-month schedule in 2016. In the transition year, student satisfaction dropped to the lowest level of any university in Australia but has since recovered.
Jordan Baker is editor of education at Sydney Morning Herald