Poster Presentation Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Testing the myths about graduate outcomes of the Bachelor of Arts: Confirmed, plausible or busted? (#313)

Deanne Gannaway 1
  1. The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

  The Bachelor of Arts (BA) is Australia’s oldest and largest undergraduate degree program, graduating thousands of students since 1856. Yet the BA is perceived to be under threat in the contemporary context. An example of this threat is evident in a national study which identified a “truth” commonly held by program leaders that the contribution of a BA towards a career trajectory is only appreciated many years after graduation (Gannaway & Trent, 2008). A further articulated “truth” was that diminishing student enrolments were the result of a recent national emphasis on employability and skillsets that could not be realised by BA programs. These “truths” have been used to justify allocations of centralised funding and rationalise program closure. However, these “truths” occur in a context where there is a systemic absence of reliable data necessary to accurately judge the capacity of Arts programs to support and respond to national strategic ambitions (Turner & Brass, 2014).

The presentation showcases a study which examined the impact of the BA curriculum at a research-intensive Australian university on graduate career paths. A sample was formed from alumni who had graduated from the program between 2000 and 2010. Their responses to the Australian Graduates Survey were supplemented by program completions data and data collected via an online survey and telephone interviews. The presentation mimics the multi-modal strategies typically used by a popular television program to test the “truths” against multiple sources of data to see whether they could be considered ‘confirmed’, ‘plausible’ or ‘busted’.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

  This presentation examines the impact of the curriculum of the BA on student employability and future career paths. It establishes what BA graduates at various stages in their working career perceive as the attained outcomes of an Australian generalist arts education. It argues that the BA is well placed to provide the core skills needed to function in the knowledge economy and traces how the contemporary Arts program is transforming and adjusting to meet those needs. The study presented here critiques the data sources currently used to inform decision-making related to the BA and offers a view that the BA does, indeed, prepare graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals.

  1. Gannaway, D., & Trent, F. (2008). Who is delivering the Australian BA? Trends in Staff Profiles in the BA 2001 - 2006 Summary report: Nature and Role of The Australian Bachelor of Arts Degree Sydney: Council of Deans of Arts, Social Science and Humanities (DASSH).
  2. Turner, G., & Brass, K. (2014). Mapping the Humanities and Social Sciences in Australia Canberra, ACT: Australian Academy of the Humanities.