The federal government’s proposal to incentivise the study of university courses in areas of anticipated job growth is ill-conceived and ignores graduate outcomes for humanities students, a senior academic at the University of Tasmania says.
Dirk Baltzly, a Professor of Philosophy at UTAS and a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, said the bill to overhaul the government’s funding contribution to the university sector wouldn’t achieve what it was designed to.
In other news:
The Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-Ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill seeks to decrease the funding for Commonwealth supported places from 58 per cent to 52 per cent. It would also see a 113 per cent hike to fees for humanities courses and a drop in the cost of courses including science, engineering and nursing.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the bill, Professor Baltzly – who stressed that he was writing to the committee in his capacity as a private citizen – said a recent report from Deloitte Access Economics for Macquarie University had shown that the skills humanities graduates learnt studying disciplines like philosophy were highly sought after by employers.
“By the government’s own projections, fields such as education and training, public administration and safety, professional, scientific and technical services, health care and social assistance and arts and recreation services will all see substantial growth in the coming years,” he said.
“As it happens, these are also the very fields that are top five destinations for humanities graduates.
“Their fit into these labour markets will not be in spite of, but because of, the skills and knowledge they have derived from their studies. So there is no basis in fact for saying that our future labour markets will require fewer graduates in the humanities.”
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan says the reforms would result in the creation of 39,000 additional university places by 2023. UTAS vice-chancellor Rufus Black has welcomed this aspect of the government’s package, saying it would give Tasmanians greater access to higher education.
There is no basis in fact for saying that our future labour markets will require fewer graduates in the humanities.
Professor Dirk Baltzly
But Professor Baltzly stated that the share of student contributions would rise under the changes, jumping from 42 per cent to 48 per cent, which he said would add to an “already vast level of intergenerational injustice between older and younger Australians”.
Mr Tehan has previously said that UTAS would be “one of the big winners” out of the package. “Its funding will increase and it will receive more places for domestic students,” he said.
In another submission to the inquiry, Tasmanian mother of two Rachel Tenni wrote that the reforms represented an “irresponsible dumbing down of our society”.
“I am so depressed about what you propose to do to my children’s future,” Ms Tenni said.
“Stop this threat to … our educational institutions.
“Fund them and help them to thrive and create a better society than the one we have now.”
On Thursday, educational policy expert Mark Warburton gave evidence to the committee in which he said student load at UTAS meant it could potentially lose close to 8 per cent of student place funding compared to the national average of 6 per cent.
But Professor Black disputed this, saying there had been commentary on the package by “people who aren’t familiar with the detail of Tasmanian circumstances”.
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor: