‘We are not pointless’: fee hikes for the humanities 

University of Queensland (UQ). Photo supplied.

Scout Wallen

An overhaul of fees in Australian universities will see humanity courses cost more than double of what students are paying right now.

Education Minister Dan Tehan announced the changes last week, seeing degrees such as laws, communications, commerce, arts and more, cost $14,500 a year. For students already enrolled in a bachelor degree, their fees will be frozen which means they will not have to pay the 113 per cent increase. Unfortunately for prospective students, these fee spikes may impact their desire to commit to higher education.

A local perspective

Lily Spiteri graduated from Byron Bay High School at the end of last year, and is working full time in her gap year to afford her interstate transition to pursue higher education. Lily is set to study a Bachelor of Design, a course that will be implicated by these fee hikes.

‘I know that the creative industry is a difficult one to go into, so I was quite nervous to decide to go down that route because there are never any guaranteed jobs,’ said Lily.

‘Hearing that the fees are being increased and going into such an industry is making me worried.’

For students like Lily who have to move to larger cities to study, these changes in fees may impact their financial ability to do so.

‘It is already very daunting moving out to a different city being regional,’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘The cost of living in cities is already so much more to begin with, and then if the course has an increase, it will put a lot of people off.’

Who should we be listening to?

Although the change was implemented to funnel students into industries with prospective job growth, such as nursing, teaching and agriculture, depleting the incentive to study the arts may have a detrimental impact on Australian culture.

Local MP Tamara Smith is worried about the fact that federal parliamentarians are deciding what ‘job ready university degrees’ look like.

‘The university sector – teachers and students – are best placed to advocate for subject and degree choice and they are saying pretty clearly that the government is woefully wrong to hike fees for arts degrees,’ said Ms Smith.

These incentives that will push people into degrees that they are not passionate about and block them from pursuing their desired field is unfair in Lily’s eyes.

‘Being able to create things has always been my calling, so it is very intimidating to think about having to work in an industry that I don’t enjoy or that I struggle to understand,’ she said.

The humanities are valuable

Ms Smith asserts that this waging war on arts and law faculties is furthering the government’s lack of support for universities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘It’s an act of bastardy and the timing is incredibly cruel,’ said Ms Smith.

‘Providing an artificial financial disincentive for students to take arts subjects is like saying we want you to stay ignorant of your place in the world.’

We all play a role in creating a functioning, well-rounded society which bears witness to nuanced discussion, expertise and opinion.

We need to prioritise the creatives. The communicators. The artists. The business analysts. The criminologists.

‘Creative people still help society,’ said Lily

‘We are not pointless.’

If these changes concern you, please consider signing this petition to oppose the government’s decision.



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