Canberra universities have seen a surge in applications for arts and humanities degrees despite fees more than doubling this year.
Executive dean of arts and design at the University of Canberra Professor Jason Bainbridge said applications in his faculty had increased by 11 per cent compared to 2020.
This is in the face of a 113 per cent increase in the student contribution for these courses, brought about by the Coalition's job ready graduates legislation.
"Even with the increase in the fees by the government's own admission, arts and humanities graduates tend to have better starting salaries, they have more longevity in their career, they have more transferable skill sets than what other other graduates might have, and they tend to have more happiness and well being in their occupations," Professor Bainbridge said.
"So that [fee increase] really hasn't dissuaded students from thinking that there are still good career paths through arts and humanities."
Australian universities have seen an increase in the number of domestic applications as COVID-19 travel restrictions and the economic downturn forced people to cancel gap years or go into the education market rather than the jobs market.
The job ready graduates package was intended to provide a financial incentive for students to choose areas of national priority, such as nursing, teaching and maths.
Australian National University vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the pandemic had more of an impact on students' decisions than the changes to course costs.
"I guess the irony is there are big price rises in humanities, but we've had big rises of enrolments there. Now, our students still get great value for money for their degree by that.
"But when we bring a lot more students in as we do, we don't actually get paid by the federal government for them."
Professor Schmidt said the focus was on making sure the university was the right scale while absorbing the funding changes.
Professor Bainbridge said students were following their areas of interest rather than opting for cheaper courses.
"I think that just just because there are more places say in science doesn't mean that people interested in arts and humanities are going to go over to to science," he said.
The 2020 Graduate Outcomes Survey found the median salary for humanities, culture and social science undergraduates was $62,600, slightly below the median of $64,700 for all study areas.
The full-time employment rate for this cohort was 60.9 per cent in 2020, down from 64.3 per cent in 2019 potentially due to the impact of COVID-19. The full-time employment rate for all study areas last year was 68.7 per cent.
Professor Bainbridge said arts and humanities degrees were misunderstood by the government.
"What the government often misses is that they're very much transferable skill sets around creative problem solving, about particular forms of design thinking for example, that translate into all different areas.
"That's sometimes hard to quantify for the government, so they're thinking about perhaps more creative practice occupations rather than thinking about what that those graduates can bring to the workforce in terms of creative solutions."
For faster access to the latest Canberra news, download The Canberra Times app for iOS and Android.