A number of Illawarra HSC student leaders say they feel "disappointed and unwanted" by the University of Wollongong over its handling of the inaugural UOW Vice-Chancellor's Leadership Scholarship.
The students, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of future repercussions, told the Mercury they were disappointed it took the university almost two weeks to address their concerns.
They felt the application process was "flawed" and limited.
"[UOW] only did something after a number of student leaders and careers advisers kicked up a stink," a spokesperson for the group said.
"As students that are looking to support our local university by electing to attend UOW over other academic institutions, we found it quite deceptive because although many student leaders registered interest in the scholarship they were not even given an opportunity to apply.
"Instead, students who exceeded the academic criteria from the wider early entry group were chosen with no apparent history of leadership in the community.
"We recognise that receiving the scholarship is not a given, however not being given the opportunity to apply at all is something that is deceptive and clearly shows UOW does not understand what it means to be a leader."
A UOW spokesman said after the scholarship launch in late July, existing early admission applications were reviewed and potentially eligible students identified, contacted and invited to apply.
A webinar was then held.
"UOW received feedback from several local schools advising that some high-calibre students with strong leadership skills who could potentially be competitive applicants had not been included in this initial correspondence and webinar," the spokesman said.
"UOW welcomed this feedback and quickly adopted it, taking steps to modify the application and assessment process to enable these quality students to apply.
"UOW values the positive working relationship it enjoys with local high schools...The University also appreciates the efforts made by high school careers advisers to promote this scholarship program to high performing student leaders in their school communities.
"Not only has this helpful feedback already been adopted for this inaugural year, but will also be incorporated into future scholarship application processes."
Read more: 43 new COVID cases recorded in the Illawarra