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Fee hike unjustified: employers increasingly seeking out Arts graduates

Photo by: Philippe Bout, Unsplash

Last week, Education Minister Dan Tehan announced changes to university fees designed to steer students away from humanities degrees into "job-ready" STEM fields.

The changes would see fees for humanities and communication degrees double with government contributions to these degrees set to drop, leaving students to pay the same fees as those doing law degrees.

It would seem the Federal Government considers that humanities and communication degrees ‘don’t lead to jobs of the future’, however Government endorsed data proves this is far from the case.

Australian short-term and medium-term full-time employment outcomes by level of study & study area. Data Visualisation by Georgia Bennett-Murphy.

In stark contradiction to the Morrison government’s justification for raising the cost of humanities and communications degrees, data from the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching shows significant increases in the full-time employment of graduates in these areas.

The data shows that between 2016 and 2019, the percentage of Humanities, Culture, Social Sciences and Communications students in full-time employment increased significantly: up 36.5% for Humanities, Culture and Social Sciences and up 34% for Communications.

Creative Arts were up a notable 40.8%, while Computing and Information Systems increased by only 21.4%.

Employment of graduates in Nursing, a degree the Government plans to heavily subsidise at the expense of those studying humanities/communication, was up only 11.8% in the period.

President of the Academy for Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA), Professor Jane Hall, labelled the proposed increase in fees as “short-sighted”, saying that “it has been shown time and time again that employers place a high value on ‘soft skills’ including the ability to think critically and creatively, to solve problems and to work effectively in teams.”

This is particularly supported by the fact “two in three CEOs of ASX200 listed companies have a degree in the social sciences, as do 62% of government senior executives and 66% of Federal Parliamentarians”, according to the ASSA.

Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia President (JERAA), Alex Wake, says Federal Minister Dan Tehan’s decision to more than double the cost of journalism degrees “strikes at the heart of democracy in this country.

“Journalism and broader communication degrees clearly provide the critical skills that Minister Tehan wants in digitally savvy job graduates and that Australia needs in its journalists.

“These graduates find jobs, not only because news organisations want their skills, but because increasing numbers of other companies and organisations value the truth-seeking, digital literacy and communication skills they have learned.”

JERAA, alongside other organisations in the media space, is strongly encouraging the government to reconsider their decision to increase the cost of journalism degrees, particularly as it comes at a time when the industry is already under significant pressure amidst the Covid19 economic crisis.


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