By Deslyn Taylor, NCWQ Education Advisor

In 2020 the Federal Government changed the costs of degrees at Universities and has attempted to push students towards industries that it believes will drive job growth. This has partly been because of the serious unemployment problem currently being experienced because of the COVID19 shutdowns.

Areas including nursing, psychology, English, languages, teaching, agriculture, maths, science, health, environmental science and architecture – basically courses based on STEM subjects with the exception of English. Maths degrees in particular will attract a 62% decrease. (1)

“The cost of studying humanities at university is set to double. (1). The Law and Commerce Degrees will increase by 28% but the Humanities degrees will increase by 113%. This will be difficult to repay for many as work gained in these fields does not attract a high remuneration. This has major implications for women as this is an area where women have traditionally outnumbered men.

“Women are less likely to enrol in science and maths degrees than men. In Australia, only 35% of STEM university degrees are awarded to women. This figure has been stable over the past five years.” (2)

This may have long term effects and exacerbate the gender disparity in earnings. Currently women are “under-represented across the STEM workforce and weighted in roles that are typically less senior and less secure. Job loss at a greater rate than for men is now an immediate threat for many women in Australia’s STEM workforce, potentially reversing equity gains of recent years.” (2)

COVID19 has also caused problems for current Year 12 students who are facing increased competition to get into University in 2021 when students who would normally take a Gap year to travel will now go straight to University because of the crisis in the Travel industry. In addition because of the current unemployment crisis many will turn to universities with the hope of a better chance of employment thus making it even more difficult for current Year 12 students who have also had the misfortune to have had their studies interrupted because of the impact of home schooling for part of their year.

We need to support them going forward and encourage girls into the STEM courses but the Government needs to also recognise the importance of the Humanities and support them so that we gain a better understanding of our world, our culture, our history – who we are as people. We need a system that is fair to all and is not just designed around the job market.

Reference
1. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-19/university-fees-tertiary-educationoverhaul-coursecosts/12367742#:~:text=How%20fees%20will%20change%3A,and%20engineering%2
0degrees%3A%2020pc%20decrease
2. https://theconversation.com/girls-score-the-same-in-maths-and-science-as-boysbut-higher-in-arts-this-may-be-why-they-are-less-likely-to-pick-stem-careers-131563

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