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David Thomson.  Photo: Otago University
David Thomson. Photo: Otago University
A hike in fees at Australian universities will fuel a popularly held negative view about the employment value of humanities programmes, a University of Otago senior manager says.

But the perception did not match well with employment outcomes data, David Thomson, the director of planning and funding for the university, said.

"Employment rates and earnings of humanities graduates are on par with science graduates in years following graduation.

"Furthermore, the value of attributes such as critical thinking, flexibility, adaptability and good communication skills developed through humanities study is being demonstrated daily in countries like New Zealand that are successfully responding to the threat of Covid-19."

The Australian federal Government is set to double university fees for some future arts students and slash the cost of courses it says are in demand for the workforce.

The move is partly designed to steer some students away from the humanities.

It could also make some New Zealanders think twice about studying at Australian universities.

Mr Thomson said it was too soon to comment definitively on what the implications might be for New Zealand universities.

However, a surge in students from Australia crossing the Tasman to study humanities in New Zealand was unlikely.

Australian students would not be able to access either New Zealand’s system of loans and allowances or the equivalent Australian system.

"Regardless of the fees being charged, this is a likely disincentive to skipping across the Tasman for tertiary study and is one reason Otago is cautious about the extent to which the Australian change may generate opportunity," Mr Thomson said.

Australia is, however, a well-established source of international students for the University of Otago.

"We expect to continue to attract students from across the Tasman when transtasman travel restrictions ease.

"Students coming to Otago from Australia are also typically New Zealand citizens."

Mr Thomson said attempts to change student choice through pricing signals sometimes cropped up internationally.

This tended to have less impact than expected, because many students continued to pursue the subjects they were interested in or passionate about.

Mr Thomson said the focus in Australia had been on fee changes for the humanities and social sciences but other subject areas, including medical science and environmental studies, also face substantial fee increases.


"increasing fees . . fuel a popularly held negative view . . . of humanities programmes"
Interesting! If the price of anything else was to increase, the argument is that it is possessing a higher value. His argument sounds like a plea for not doing the same here in NZ.
"critical thinking, flexibility, adaptability and good communication skills developed through humanities"
If only this was true, then the broader community would see and understand the value of university humanities courses.
The fact is, the humanities is infected with postmodernist ideology and they have has spread it through the whole system of education, into governmental thinking and sections of society. There is NO self critical thinking of their ideology. There is NO flexibility, just a deconstructivist pursuit towards our society. There is NO adaptability of their ideology, just a doubling down arrogance when policies and actions derived from their ideology create more poverty, unemployment, ill health and despair in our society.
Postmodernism is a Marxist ideology that ferments grievances based on gender, race, religion and identity politics.
It IS what is fragmenting our society!