5 August 2022

Why studying the arts is more important than ever

| University of Canberra
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Graduates from the University of Canberra

Graduates from the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Arts and Design in 2022. Photo: Maddi Green Photography.

Here’s the thing: arts degrees aren’t designed to get you a job, they’re designed to get you a career.

Policy introduced by the previous federal government suggests arts degrees don’t make students “job ready” and actively discourages students from studying arts by doubling the cost of these degrees. But this policy also ignores the high employment outcomes for arts graduates.

These are enabled by the workplace training offered through Work Integrated Learning units we provide as part of an arts degree.

Our students learn what is expected in the workplace by working with real-world businesses, on real-world industry projects, as part of their studies. It means by the time our students graduate they have a portfolio of project work to show to prospective employers – assuming an industry partner hasn’t already offered them a job along the way.

If the last two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and disruption at every level of our lives has shown us anything, it’s the real need for the “soft skills” at the heart of every arts degree.

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It’s the complex problem-solving to find solutions to the challenges we’ve never had to face before, and the emotional intelligence to understand and connect with others, often worse off than ourselves.

It’s creative expression to maintain our mental health as we cope with long periods of lockdown and social isolation, or the critical thinking skills to come up with new ways to care for our families, make money and pay the bills.

Perhaps unsurprisingly these soft skills are also the most in-demand in the Australian labour market today. They translate into empathic employees who are good people managers. Employees who can clearly articulate plans and make decisions because they are active and engaged in the wider community. Employees who are capable of thinking outside the box, collaborate and co-ordinate with others because they understand how other people think and feel.

Graduates with these skill sets offer real value to organisations and businesses because they can never be replaced by automation. It’s one of the reasons arts alumni at UC occupy more mid-level and senior management roles than many business graduates, and why they work in a diverse range of fields from the entertainment industry to the public service, galleries and not-for-profits.

Professor Jason Bainbridge, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra. Photo: University of Canberra.

Current government policy also misses the trends in Australia’s employment growth. Arts degrees don’t prepare students for just one job, the real value of an arts degree is that it gives students transferable skills they can use from one job to the next, and build a successful, sustainable and long-term career. That’s a major reason our arts alumni report great graduate outcomes.

Canberra is Australia’s creative capital, home to the nation’s greatest cultural institutions and the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra is the home of creatives. We recognise the importance of creativity by providing a portfolio entry pathway creative students can apply for in place of traditional ATAR requirements, not just for the arts but across the disciplines of media and communications, design and architecture.

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We nurture student talent in our state-of-the-art facilities including our Design Lab, Workshop 7, radio and television studios and our heritage labs, all of which are among the best in the country.

We also provide opportunities for lifelong learning and upskilling, so we’re always there to help you take that next step in your career.

Each and every one of us imagines the future we want to create, for ourselves, for our community and for our family. Ultimately that’s why an arts degree remains so vitally important, because it is the one degree that can provide you with the tools you need to create that future, regardless of the career path.

Professor Jason Bainbridge is the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra. He holds degrees in Arts and Law and a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of Queensland. Professor Bainbridge has published widely on strategic communication, media and merchandising, popular culture and the law across multiple books, book chapters and journal articles, and is a regular media commentator.


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