Why Australia is doubling fees for arts degrees

Alisa Purbasari Horton:

That’s supported by a survey conducted by The University of Melbourne investigating the experiences of first-year students between 1994 and 2014. When students were asked their main reason for enrolling, intrinsic interest in their subject consistently ranked highest, ahead of improving job prospects. In 1994, 94% considered interest in their field as an important reason to study, a figure that went up to 96% in 2014.     

“I think the idea that you can persuade the student who is interested in philosophy to go and become an engineer is just not how this is going to work,” says Joel Barnes, a public history researcher at University of Technology Sydney. Then there are also reasons beyond interest and job prospects that go into a student’s choice to pick a field of study. For example, those with learning disabilities may face additional challenges if they were forced to pick courses that don’t correspond with how they learn best, or isn’t taught in a way that is conducive to their learning. 

Sheehy points out that prior education reforms in Australia made law degrees more expensive, yet universities continue to see a consistent increase in law graduates. Conrad Liveris, a labour market economist, told ABC News that while the change may prompt more students to at least think about studying job-ready courses, “whether they continue with that is another thing”.