Federation University will scrap its Bachelor of Arts degree due to declining enrolment numbers in a move that has been condemned by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
The university, which is Victoria’s only regionally-based tertiary institution, failed to consult with the Union, staff, or students before making the announcement on Wednesday, forcing faculty-wide staff redundancies.
In a press release, NTEU Victorian Assistant Secretary Sarah Roberts called it a “demoralising day for humanities in Victoria” and a “hammer blow for students who want to live regionally and study arts”.
“There’s no underestimating how important arts graduates are to society. The critical thinking skills and breadth of knowledge students are equipped with make our nation stronger,” she said.
This follows several years of job losses due to operational restructuring at the University, including last year’s changes which saw the replacement of its six academic schools with three ‘Interdisciplinary Employment and Start-up Centres’, the abolition of Deans in favour of ‘CEOs’, and voluntary redundancies offered to all ongoing staff.
The university arts sector has suffered in recent years from government fee hikes under the Job Ready Graduates Package and cost-saving cuts to subjects and departments with smaller enrolment numbers.
Federation University Branch President Mathew Abbott has urged the Federal and Victorian governments to intervene, emphasising the importance of regional access to a university arts education.
“Rogue Vice Chancellors making destructive and shortsighted decisions need to be reined in by governments,” Abbott said.
“We need an urgent intervention with emergency funding to save this key pillar of regional higher education.”
Similar cost-cutting measures and course restructures at La Trobe, Deakin, Adelaide University, Newcastle University, UTS, Macquarie University, and the University of Western Australia also saw over 690 job losses since July last year, including the dissolution of UWA’s Anthropology and Sociology major.
At the University of Sydney, a Draft Change Proposal for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from October last year threatened to cut arts subjects with fewer than 24, putting 250 undergraduate and 240 postgraduate subjects under risk. Its controversial Future FASS program, which has begun rollout this year, will also see FASS reshaped from a departmental towards a disciplinary operational structure.
The move has been widely opposed by departmental chairs for further eroding departmental autonomy in the faculty of arts, and placing academic power in the corporate hands of university management.
“An arts degree must be a bedrock offering for all universities,” said Roberts.
“Federation University management needs to factor the costs of running its BA program into its business model, just as other universities do.”