Australian University Heads of English Letter to The Hon. Dan Tehan MP



29 July, 2020


Letter to the Federal Minister for Education, The Hon. Dan Tehan MP

Dear Mr Tehan,

The AUHE is cognisant of the debates surrounding the proposed Federal Government’s education policy reforms, and we write to voice our support for the concerns held by other Humanities-related peak bodies and by the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences community generally.

Of major concern is the suggestion that the proposed reforms will unfairly place the burden of 93 per cent of the cost of a Humanities/Arts degree (up from 52 per cent) onto students themselves; this is a move that will affect equitable access to higher education generally, not to mention create intergenerational inequities during a period of global uncertainty and upheaval.

We would urge the government to consider a more nuanced response to how it interprets ‘job ready’ graduates, especially in line with the findings of a range of business/corporate and global bodies (e.g. The World Economic Forum) that argue that the future workplace will depend on the very graduate skills that the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences foster and develop.

We stand in support of our partner disciplines such as History, Philosophy, Politics, Sociology, Archaeology and Anthropology—and so many more—and urge a re-think about the proposed reforms in light of evidence that our graduates need the very skills generated by learning in these areas. Our students should be encouraged to study these fields rather than be charged excessively for the price of their education. As the former Chairman of the US National Endowment for the Humanities, William Adams, has stated:

[A]t the very moment that the humanities are being pressured in the academy and disparaged in public places, the [world] is wrestling with challenges that need the humanities more than ever. The most important challenges of our times, the really big things we live with, the wicked problems of the [world] in our time, can’t be intelligently approached and described, never mind resolved, without the full engagement of the sensibilities and habits of mind and forms of knowledge that are fostered by humanistic inquiry, teaching and learning.

Students planning to embark on tertiary study need equal and equitable access to whichever field they wish to pursue, and need to be correctly informed of the efficacy of the findings that Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences graduates will be as valuable and valued as STEM graduates when it comes to the tackling of the social and economic challenges facing us all.

This is not the time to price the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences out of the market; it is a short-sighted policy that will have long-term ramifications for Australia’s future.

Yours sincerely,

Associate Professor Giselle Bastin

President – AUHE