Proposed changes to university course fees announced today by Minister for Education Dan Tehan are short-sighted and risk leaving young Australians significantly worse off in the future, according to the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

President of the Academy Distinguished Professor Jane Hall said that it’s been shown time and time again that employers place a high value on ‘soft skills’ including the ability to think critically and creatively, to solve problems and to work effectively in teams.

“These are skills that are most effectively taught through broad courses of study that incorporate the arts, humanities and social sciences alongside STEM and other subjects,” she said.

“It’s clear that Australia requires a workforce with specific technical skills as well as diverse and multidisciplinary education now and in the future.”

Analysis by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia has shown that training in the social science, arts and humanities is pervasive at the top tiers of government and business. Two in three CEOs of ASX200 listed companies have a degree in the social sciences, as do 62% of government senior executives and 66% of Federal Parliamentarians.

“We know there’s enormous and enduring value to students in studying history, philosophy, political science, economics or psychology, irrespective of whether they’re intending to pursue a career in these areas,” said Professor Hall.

The Academy has also expressed concern that the changes may lead to an increase in the overall balance of student and government higher education contributions in a way that leaves future graduates more heavily burdened with student debt.

“To suggest that we can know and predict the skills and training young Australians will need for the future is very optimistic, particularly at a time when so much about our future is uncertain,” said Professor Hall.

“It would be helpful if the Minister and his Department could provide the evidence on which these proposed changes are based.”