If anything undermines Western civilization at Australian universities it is the declining enrolments in the Bachelor of Arts. This is a global trend, but local factors are significant causes. The government’s threat of $100,000 degrees frightened students and parents, understandably wary about accumulating debts in economically uncertain times, while Australian business – another bulwark of conservatism – prefers to hire accounting and economic graduates, unlike in the UK and the United States. I have lost count of the number of university Open Day conversations with parents who press me about the career prospects of their 17-year old children. Unconvinced by my pitch about the value of the humanities, they drag off the youth of today from the History/Ancient History and Classics booth over to the Accounting one. Don’t blame political correctness for these decisions. Blame the precariousness induced by the globalized economy championed by News Corp and Education Minister Simon Birmingham.
Now I’m always happy to blame the government for all ills. Yet I’m unconvinced in this instance. How is it that UK and US employers employ Arts graduates in those countries where students debt is a serious issue compared to Australia?