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Humanities degrees set to double in price as Parliament passes higher education bill

08/10/2020

The cost of studying humanities at university is set to double, but “job-relevant” course fees will be slashed under an overhaul of tertiary education announced by the Federal Government today.

Key points:

  • Under the tertiary education overhaul, humanities and communications will be in the same cost bracket as law degrees
  • Fee increases will not be implemented for courses which students are already undertaking
  • In some states, university applications for 2021 are double what they would usually be by this time of year

Education Minister Dan Tehan also announced an extra 39,000 university places for Australian students will be funded by 2023.

Demand for 2021 is already soaring, with the estimated 20,000 year 12 students who usually defer university now less likely to take a gap year because of travel restrictions and the poor jobs market.

The rising unemployment rate is also driving demand — in a recession, many unemployed people typically turn to universities.

“We are facing the biggest employment challenge since the Great Depression,” Mr Tehan said.

“And the biggest impact will be felt by young Australians. They are relying on us to give them the opportunity to succeed in the jobs of the future.”

Humanities students to pay as much as med students

The Government is using a carrot-and-stick approach to funnel students into the industries it believes will drive job growth.

How fees will change:

  • Agriculture and maths degrees: 62pc decrease
  • Teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, English and languages degrees: 46pc decrease
  • Science, health, architecture, environmental science, IT and engineering degrees: 20pc decrease
  • Medicine, dental and veterinary science degrees: no change
  • Law and commerce degrees: 28pc increase
  • Humanities degrees: 113 per cent increase

Subjects in nursing, psychology, English, languages, teaching, agriculture, maths, science, health, environmental science and architecture will be cheaper. The Government will increase its contribution to the cost of these classes, so students can expect to pay between $3,700 and $7,700 per year.

However, students enrolling to study law and commerce will have fees raised by 28 per cent.

For humanities courses, fees will more than double, putting them alongside law and commerce in the highest price band of $14,500 a year.

Critics of Australian universities decry their increasingly business-oriented focus, and this policy shift will add to those concerns.

Humanities staff will also worry about job security as a $45,000 arts degree will likely see some students change their plans.

The Minister says this will give the taxpayer best value for money.

“Students will have a choice,” Mr Tehan said.

“Their degree will be cheaper if they choose to study in areas where there is expected growth in job opportunities.”

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