Letter from HASS Associations opposing changes to HASS Degree fees

Att. Hon. Dan Tehan
Minister for Education

Dear Minister,

We are writing this open letter in response to the recent announcement by the Federal Government that student fees for university courses in society and culture, humanities, and communications will be drastically increased. You have justified this decision on the grounds of funnelling students into ‘job-relevant’ degrees. This is directly against the best advice and evidence that the skills provided by HASS study are increasingly important, in fact, essential to our future economy and society. Studying Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences equips students with highly valuable skills in critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, advanced analysis and interpretation, and the ability to construct reasoned arguments and to question assumptions. These skills are important now more than ever as the world faces an uncertain future. The Arts and Humanities are the foundation of building a fair and prosperous society.

These changes you have announced will not help prepare the next generation for the future of work but will risk making the study of our history, society, culture and place in the world out of reach of all but the most wealthy students, at a time when this knowledge is more important than ever. Training in the Arts and Humanities must be accessible for all students, where equity, diversity and a plurality of voices are vital.

As academics who research, teach, and were trained in society and culture, humanities, and communications, we have seen first-hand the value of studying these fields to our students, and in turn to Australian and wider society. We note how many of our leaders across all sectors have HASS educations, including yourself and many of your parliamentary colleagues.
We condemn these fee increases and all that they represent. They are unfair and the greater burden you are placing on the next generation will only exacerbate widespread job insecurity for them. It will also add to the deep precarity felt by many of our world-leading HASS academics, and likely lead to a significant knowledge dearth at a time when Australia is in most need of these research leaders.
We welcome positive opportunities for university students in Australia, but not at the expense of those degrees that have been arbitrarily and incorrectly deemed irrelevant for employment. We call on you to provide equitable access to higher education for all young people, no matter what they want to study, not least of all because the demand for HASS skills from employers has dramatically risen in the past decade. To not do so would be an unconscionable attack on Australia’s future.


Dr Catherine Hoad, Chair, International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Australia-Aotearoa/New Zealand Branch (IASPM-ANZ).

Associate Professor Dan Woodman, President, Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), and President, The Australian Sociological Association (TASA).

Associate Professor Tama Leaver, Vice President, Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR).

Professor Vicki Karaminas, President, Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ).

Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens, President, Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA).

Associate Professor Sora Park, President, & Associate Professor David Nolan, Vice-President, Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA).

Dr Julia Prendergast, Chair of the Executive Committee, Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP). Distinguished Professor Jen Webb, Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP).

Dr Alex Wake, President, Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia.

Dr Bettina Frankham, President, Australian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA).

Professor Will Christie, Director, Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres.

Dr Jonathan Hutchinson, Treasurer, Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA), and Secretary, International Association of Public Media Research.

Dr Tess Ryan, President, Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association (ACRAWSA).

Professor Joy Damousi, President, Australian Historical Association (AHA).

Associate Professor Giselle Bastin, President, Australian University Heads of English (AUHE)

Dr Adelle Sefton-Rowston, President, Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association (AULLA).

Professor Marion Maddox, President, Australian Association for the Study of Religions (AASR).

Associate Professor Lisa Wynn, President, Australian Anthropological Society (AAS).

Associate Professor Lea Beness, President, Australasian Women in Ancient World Studies (AWAWS).

Dr Peter Acton, President, Humanities 21

Dr Timothy Peters, President, Law, Literature & the Humanities Association of Australasia (LLHAA).

Associate Professor Ilana Mushin, President, The Australian Linguistic Society (ALS).

Dr Trish Luker, President, Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand (LSAANZ).

Associate Professor Beatrice Trefalt, President, Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA).

Dr Iva Glisic and Dr Samantha Owen, National Convenors, Australian Women’s History Network.

Dr Pauline Griffiths, Principal, Quality Teaching Australia (QTA).

Dr Wendy Garden, President, Art Association of Australia & New Zealand (AAANZ).

Professor Emerita Jean Fornasiero FAHA, President, Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU).

Professor Peter Harrison, Director, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH).

Professor Paul Millar, President, Australasian Association for Digital Humanities (aaDH).

Dr Tiina Manne, President, Australian Archaeological Association (AAA).

Professor Noah Riseman, President, International Australian Studies Association (InASA).

Dr Jonathan Crichton, President, Applied Linguistics Association of Australia (ALAA).

Professor Felicity Cox, President, Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association (ASSTA)

Associate Professor Helen Caple, President, Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association (ASFLA).

Associate Professor Tom Stevenson, President, Australasian Society for Classical Studies (ASCS).

Helen Lardner, President, International Council for Monuments and Sites (Australia ICOMOS).

Anita Yousif, President, Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology (ASHA)

If you are a HASS Association who would like to add your name to the above letter, please email membership@chass.org.au.