sharp decline
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Number of applicants to arts and humanities courses in Australia experiences sharp decline

The number of students applying to arts and humanities courses in Australia has experienced its sharpest decline in 2020, a new report from Australia’s Department of Education indicates. 

The data is consistent with the trend of falling applicants to those fields following 2018, according to the Undergraduate Applicants, Offers and Acceptances report. 

Figures show a 6% decrease in applicants to Creative Arts courses, whereas “job-relevant” courses such as Information Technology and environmental degrees saw application increases of around 10%.

The report also shows that applications to higher education institutions in 2020, prior to the pandemic, experienced an overall increase. 

It is unclear if the waning interest in arts-related fields is a response to a declining economic situation, or increasing government interventions in education. 

This data was collected in May 2020, a month before the government announced its intentions to reallocate resources towards ‘job-related’ fields. 

Australia’s higher education reform will result in humanities and arts students paying much more than their STEM counterparts. Degrees such as History are seeing a 113% rise in cost, whereas fees of most science courses will experience a drop of around 20%.

Overall, it appears that decisions about whether to discourage or encourage particular disciplines have not been made on labour market ground

– Mark Warbourton

This decision aims to “incentivise students to make job-relevant choices”, Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan says

David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, stated:  “Developing our human capital is a key focus of our higher education plan and these reforms back in our future farmers, agronomists and researchers by making agriculture degrees more affordable.” 

Mark Warburton, an Honorary Senior Fellow with Melbourne University’s Centre for Higher Education, said: “Overall, it appears that decisions about whether to discourage or encourage particular disciplines have not been made on labour market grounds.

“They may have been based on subjective preferences about what students should study.”

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