Australia Needs More Humanities & Social Science Graduates

The History Council of South Australia is extremely disappointed to learn of the Morrison government’s proposal to more than double the cost of a university education for History students in particular and for students of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) in general. Plans announced by Education Minister Dan Tehan last Friday (19 June 2020) will drastically reduce the Commonwealth Government’s contribution from $6652 to $1100 per student place and will more than double the cost of a university education for students in History.

This decision demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the vital importance of History and other HASS disciplines. Skills gained through studying HASS disciplines include critical and creative thinking, ethics, research skills and an ability to construct a logical and coherent argument as well as skills in written and oral communication. Evidence shows that these are foundational skills that are highly valued by employers, and that many successful Australian companies rely on ‘skills mixing’ – bringing together HASS skills with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In the current era of disinformation and ‘fake news’, providing future generations with the skills to critique sources, analyse content and identify motives is essential for the health of our society and our political system.

In an article about the importance of a Humanities education written on behalf of the History Councils of Victoria, SA, NSW and WA, Emeritus Professor Peter McPhee (President of the History Council of Victoria) states that ‘This decision does a disservice to the values embedded in our civic culture and to the requirements of business enterprise and innovation’.

The History Councils note that this proposal severely disadvantages women; a paper produced by the Australian Government’s Workforce Gender Equality Agency provides clear data that women make up a high proportion of students studying HASS subjects. In addition, for genuine reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians to occur, a well-informed knowledge of our colonial history and its enduring implications is essential.

For Australians to contextualise, understand and devise solutions for the uncertain future that confronts our own and successive generations, more Humanities and Social Science graduates are required, not less.

The History Council of South Australia has contacted the Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP, urging him to rethink this short sighted and punitive funding model. We have also contacted the Shadow Minister for Education and Training (the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP), six cross-bencher Senators, and we urge all our members to do the same.

Further information:

Peter McPhee’s article, A Humanities education: what’s the point?

The joint History Councils’ statement on The Value of History.

The Australian Academy of the Humanities Media Release, Humanities hit hardest when needed more than ever.