In the next 12 months, unemployment will cripple the economy. As a distraction, the government has revived the culture wars of the 1990s. This will do nothing for job seekers. In recessions, universities offered places for people to study, while the economic storm raged outside. No more.
Australian authors and academics have savaged the Morrison government’s plan to more than double the cost of humanities courses.
Author Richard Flanagan said he was tired of defending what other countries regard as the “bedrock” of culture and democracy.
“This act is of a piece with a society that has for decades now placed ever less value on the creative, the critical and the questioning, and regards conformity as the greatest good,” Flanagan said. “Nothing is more helpful in preparing the road to authoritarianism. The government will save a few dollars today and Australia will pay a heavy price in the years to come.”
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said on Friday the government wanted to encourage university students to pursue subjects that are high-priority employment areas. Teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, maths and agricultural course fees, would be slashed by as much as 62 per cent.
The cost of humanities and communications courses would more than double under the plan, setting full-time students back as much as $14,500 a year instead of $6804.
But English and language courses, which often fall under the Arts degree umbrella, will have their fees reduced by 46 per cent.
Two-time Miles Franklin Award-winning writer Michelle de Kretser said the changes were an announcement to the world that Australia did not value the study of humanities and would in particular place historians in the firing line.
“Australian historians are still doing marvellous work at uncovering uncomfortable truths about Australia’s past,” Ms de Kretser said.