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Universities and colleges are struggling for funding. We are in an age of too many students and too few jobs, and the universities and colleges are doing their best to retain record numbers of students.
In Australia, the Liberal (right-leaning) Government has been relentlessly trying to increase fees and decrease funding for universities as a whole. They’re trying to reduce the amount a graduate pays off their university debt—also known as HECS-HELP—when they reach full-time employment. At the moment, it’s just over $AUD55,000 ($US43,000). They hope to decrease HECS by a further $AUD13,000. The United States is worse off, where students have to pay for college straight-up, and they’re having to save up earlier and earlier, taking on multiple jobs just to get by. Since they have to pay full price, unless they’re on a scholarship, students will usually be in debt for decades to come.
There are many problems with the exorbitant costs just to receive a tertiary education. Firstly, it creates an even wider class divide, as students from lower socioeconomic areas either attend lower-prestige universities or community college/TAFE, or they simply don’t go at all, decreasing their chances of higher-paying work that will get them out of the poverty gap.
Secondly, the universities do not actually care about students receiving jobs after graduation. Students will pay the exorbitant fees just to have the prestige of “university/college degree” on their resume, but the university actually does not care about placing said students into jobs, especially if they are Arts students. Increasing the fees will just increase the amount of students attending university for nothing.
As a former Arts student at a semi-respectable university, I can tell you this from experience. This is likely different from important faculties like Science, Medicine and Law, where professors and teachers put every effort into giving their students experience for the real world.
In order for Governments to save money in the university sector, I would propose removing departments that do not give back to the wider community. In the case of the aforementioned faculties, these departments release important doctors, nurses, scientists, lawyers, coders and more into the public. They release important papers that change the way we view the world.
The problem with most Arts faculties is that they rarely do help society. Sure, departments like psychology, film, advertising, criminology and even history can be important to the world, and they’re all considered a bracket of Arts. But how is a doctoral thesis on the colonial racism in magical realism fiction going to help the world? What about the misogyny and white supremacy evident in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? You don’t need a degree to be creative. In On Writing, Stephen King states that creatives types cannot be made great, they can only be great originally.
While at university, I literally had a teacher who dressed in pink tutus and adorned her face in liberal amounts of glitter. She had an unashamed obsession with Nabokov’s Lolita, and taught both creative writing and Literary Studies. Another Literary Studies professor purposely read ancient texts in their native languages and recited them to the class in a deep breathy pseudo-English accent. Most appeared to have never left the university in several decades. Discussions in these classes never brought anything new to the table. Writing an essay on Un Chien Andalou, a meaningless Dali film, and claiming it was about misogyny was bound to get you perfect grades. Accusing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of being about racism and white supremacy was the norm, and there was no room for dissent.
Many students expect to attend university and college to learn liberal thoughts and have discussions about topics that will enlighten and challenge their views. They hope to make their mark on the world, get some experience, and apply that to the real world. In my experience, we were not told about work experience until final year, and by that point, you already need seven lifetimes of experience even for a simple beginner position.
It seems that many of these Arts faculties only prepare their students to be future teachers and professors. While attending tertiary education, you hope to be educated. You want experience, so it can be used for real life experiences.
Any department that seems to have a Studies in its name—Gender Studies, Literary Studies, Media Studies—all under the umbrella of Arts, exist for the explicit purpose of keeping you tethered to university grounds, allowing said school to gain money, regardless the fees the Government places on it are.
In an age of too many students and too few jobs, we must place less of a focus on universities except for important fields like Science, Medicine and Law. Not everybody is suited to university. The stigma attached to community colleges, TAFEs and apprenticeships should be lifted. Only then can universities return to their statuses as prime educational institutions.