The Australian Communications Advocacy Group (ACAG) has been launched to advocate against the ill-conceived changes to university tuition fees announced by the Federal Government, which ACAG argues will cause significant unintended negative consequences across a range of sectors.
ACAG is an initiative of the Public Relations institute of Australia (PRIA), joined by two other important founding coalition members:
- International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) chapters in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra
- International Association of Public Participation (IAP2 Australasia)
Under its Jobs Ready Graduate Package, the Federal Government has flagged a 91.9 per cent cut in its contribution to Communications degrees, placing these degrees in the bracket facing the biggest decrease to any of the university disciplines.
National PRIA President and ACAG chair, Leigh McClusky said the changes fly in the face of an inclusive Australia and the very skills which the government increasingly relies on to communicate.
“These changes mean that humanities students will now face a massive 113 per cent increase in pursuit of their chosen careers. Potential communications students will now have to find $14,500 each year of their university education, up from the current level of $6,804 per annum. That is simply unacceptable,” said McClusky.
“Ensuring equal access to communications is crucial to powering everything from health outreach to infrastructure projects – if we want communications to be accessible and effective for all Australians, we want a diverse and informed workforce. This policy strikes at the heart of this endeavour.”
International IAP2 chair Kylie Cochrane said: “A lack of graduates in the industry will mean less people working in community engagement, risking the right of communities to comment on the development and assessment of government infrastructure projects.”
“Public participation and engagement are driven by skilled professionals and effective communication is at the core of this. The government’s fee increase decision risks delays to the very infrastructure projects government is using as their foundation for post-COVID recovery,” said Cochrane.
International Association of Business Communicators Vice Chair Danielle Bond, called for broader consideration of the diversity humanities graduates bring to the workforce.
“Many organisations in STEM industries in Australia are actively targeting humanities graduates as they recognise that the complex challenges facing our businesses and communities require diverse thinking. We need STEAM, not STEM alone. Communications and humanities-trained professionals bring much needed critical thinking and creativity to the workplace,” said Bond.
Exclusive polling conducted by leading research consultancy Lonergan Research for ACAG found the vast majority of Australians support this campaign against the government’s new tuition schedule.
Nearly three quarters of Australians (75 per cent) believe it is not fair to penalise students who are not suited to STEM courses, while 70 per cent believe all university courses should receive equal funding from the government.
Women are more likely to recognise that these changes are unfair, with four in five (81 per cent) of women responding that it is not fair to penalise students who are not suited to STEM courses.
“Australians value fairness – particularly so when it comes to educational outcomes – and the Prime Minister needs to recognise that these changes are just not fair,” said NSW PRIA President Shane Allison.
“Our research shows that the vast majority of Australians recognise that these changes are discriminatory, penalise students who aren’t suited to STEM subjects and undervalue the skills acquired through an arts education,” he continued.
ACAG would like to acknowledge the support it has already received from a range of organisations across the communications industry, particularly The Possibility Partnership, WPP AUNZ, Lonergan Research and The Savage Company.
“Our industries are ready for this fight. As soon as this short-sighted announcement was made, the PRIA knew that we needed to act, and we were over-whelmed with offers of support from commercial organisations and industry groups to get ACAG off the ground,” said McClusky.
“The industry skills and critical thinking nurtured by humanities qualifications are increasingly required in our society and should not be the exclusive enclave of only those students with very deep pockets. “The Federal Government needs to overturn this decision, now, and ACAG looks forward to welcoming more members from across the communications industry in support of this important initiative,” she concluded.