Lauren Ford

The pursuit of higher education at a time of the “devalued” arts degree

higher education
Image; Flickr

When it comes to higher education, I, like many other aspiring creative types, have an Arts degree; a qualification largely useless on its own and that generally receives an unfair amount of scorn from certain sectors of the public.

The life of an Arts graduate varies greatly from individual to individual depending on their future study, employment prospects and ability to support themself. The majority of Arts graduates, including myself, have gone on to complete various Masters Degrees, seemingly mostly in education, journalism or law. Some others, who might be called totally ridiculous, have pursued degrees that are near impossible to explain, that have fancy sounding names, and which are unlikely to offer the financial stability necessary in the current economic climate.

I am one of these ridiculous people and I couldn’t be happier with the choices that have led me to this point, regardless of the negativity I receive. I am currently in my fifth year of tertiary study and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I should graduate at the end of this year and will then hopefully begin making my own way in the world.

Studying has never been a problem for me; I was always one of those students at school that other kids wanted to throw things at in a vain attempt to get me to stop talking – picture young Hermione Granger but with better hair. This was especially true in History and English, my main fields of interest and further study. As a devoted bookworm, any subject based on large amounts of reading gave me an unparalleled and slightly geeky thrill, and this is probably what made my maths mark so abysmal; I need a good background story, something that trigonometry never offered.

In the realm of higher education, I have pursued my love of reading and research and this has led me to my current degree – a Master of Arts in Cultural and Creative Practice. I tell people I picked it because the title of the degree is awe inspiring and it always requires some explanation, which allows me to indulge in one of my favourite activities; talking about myself.

This degree focuses on the connectivity of literature, academia and writing in society, as well as the ramifications of the themes that are found within literature and their impact on the wider society. As a confirmed bookworm, this degree permits me to read the equivalent of a novel a week and write as much as I physically can, which is a fantastic excuse to indulge in my passion.

However, despite my love for and enjoyment of this degree, there is one thing that I am still struggling to reconcile in my mind; future employment.

The issues that are associated with my possible future employment comprise the basis for the majority of questions which I am asked, especially by ‘Baby Boomers”. Following a brief explanation of my degree, they inevitably ask what type of job I can get upon my graduation. My answer varies greatly depending on my mood and the person who is posing the question. On occasion I have claimed that I will write a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or maybe be my generation’s answer to William Shakespeare or something equally as outlandish.

There are incidents, however, when my response leans towards the more realistic options such as working a job I’m not terribly thrilled with so I can pursue something I love, or hopefully cracking a job at any level in the industry and subsequently working my way towards a position I will truly enjoy. Both of these responses are serious possibilities for me in the next several years and this, while slightly annoying at times, doesn’t worry me a great deal because as long as I can do what I love in my own time, I reason that any job that I don’t particularly enjoy can simply be viewed as a means to an end and as a way to pay off my growing HECS HELP debt.

The issues surrounding higher education costs recently came to the forefront of the national conscious with the release of the 2014 Federal Budget. The current government has raised the possibility of allowing individual universities to set their own fees, which may led to the exclusion of middle and lower class students from receiving their desired education. The de-regulation of university fees is something that I fear. In this harsh economic climate any debt is tricky to shift and tens of thousands of dollars of debt before you hit the age of twenty-five is a terrifying contemplation.

If the current government’s higher education reforms are passed, this will damage my love of studying dramatically. However, those at the beginning of their educational journey will find themselves dealing with increasingly expensive fees, which could lead to an elitist education system in a supposedly egalitarian society. This was the very notion that current Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey protested against during his university years – it’s interesting the difference that those twenty years can make.

Despite the stark odds of my winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, I have no intentions of giving up my aspirations and will continue to hope that my dream career can match my repayments, and that there will be no more increases to University fees.

Lauren Ford

Lauren Ford is currently in her fifth year of university and studying creative and academic writing. She has combined this with her love of history and current affairs to produce articles on issues that she enjoys.

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