Home | News | Arts and humanities course preferences strong in NSW, VIC despite government’s fee hike

Arts and humanities course preferences strong in NSW, VIC despite government’s fee hike

Demand for arts and humanities courses remains strong in Australia’s two most populous states, despite the fee hikes introduced last year to steer students towards more ‘job-ready’ degrees in nursing, education, science and maths.

Despite fee hikes of more than 113 per cent, in NSW there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of students who listed humanities courses as their first preference compared with last year’s figures, the state’s admission centre reported.

While first preference applications for arts and humanities courses in Victoria dropped roughly five per cent, in both states humanities courses accounted for more than a fifth of all applications, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

While the latest figures suggest the Morrison Government’s Job Ready Graduates Package has done little to dampen students’ choices, some universities state that it is too early to assess the legislation’s effect on student choices in the future, and that at least three years will be needed to evaluate the true impact.

University of NSW deputy vice-chancellor Merlin Crossley told SMH the university had seen no discernable reduction in humanities enrolments, despite the fee increases that will make an average humanities degree cost nearly $50,000.

“We have seen no change. We are going to be completely full in arts, business, law, science and engineering,” he said.

University admission centre figures show that the University of Sydney’s arts and arts/law degrees were ranked sixth and seventh in the state respectively in first preferences, which is largely unchanged from last year. Meanwhile, Monash University in Victoria told SMH there was a “modest” increase in enrolments for the government-discounted STEM disciplines, but still an eight per cent rise in arts degree enrolments.

Swinburne University of Technology similarly reported strong interest in STEM-related courses, but also said student interest in its Bachelor of Arts program was “comparable to other years”.

On Thursday new education minister Alan Tudge said:

“Our Job Ready Graduates package changes the prices of many courses to encourage students into courses that are more likely to lead to a job. But ultimately it is still up to each student what they will study.”

The Job Ready Graduates package has resulted in a whopping 113 per cent increase in communications and humanities course fees, with a year of full-time study more than doubling from $6804 to $14,500 per annum. Law and commerce fees have also risen a substantial 28 per cent.

However, despite these spikes in some areas of study, higher education experts believe there is scant evidence to suggest students will change their course choices. That’s an opinion shared by education researcher Peter Hurley from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University.

“The nature of deferred income contingent loans is that repayment occurs well into the student’s future. This means ‘price signals’ – changing the cost to students to affect the demand for courses – have limited impact,” he told SMH.

Legislated by the Morrison government in October last year, the Job Ready Graduates Package aims to encourage more students to enter areas of high demand like nursing, education, maths and science by slashing course fees substantially. Conversely, the package seeks to discourage future students from entering fields where there is an oversupply of graduates or low job prospects by increasing course fees.

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