A national scoping study investigating the nature and roles of the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Australia was conducted in 2007. Reports highlighting key findings and a series of datasets designed to provide benchmarking data were made available in 2008.
In 2011, DASSH commissioned a follow-up project aimed at updating the datasets. The review of the datasets enabled the development of an overview of trends and changes in programs between 2008 and 2012.
The project team drew on archival data or primary records (such as official documents, brochures, and institutional course planners); secondary sources (such as websites, publicity documentation and media stories); and running records (such as ongoing statistical data collections from national surveys and Commonwealth data sets). Bachelor of Arts degrees, and similar programs, were examined across 39 providers. Data were collated into a standard framework template, which enabled complex and varied data to be collated into a manageable format to facilitate cross-institutional comparison and further analysis. The framework, once completed for each institution, was verified by the person identified as responsible for program oversight, usually the program or course coordinator at each institution.
Summary of key findings
1. THE BA PROGRAM IN 2008 AND IN 2012
- Program structures appear to be changing to accommodate either a concurrent study structure or a sequential structure model. For example, since 2008, nine institutions have adapted program rules to accommodate double degree structures.
- There appears to be an increasing number of concurrent diplomas available for students to complete during their undergraduate programs, particularly in the Languages, but also stretching to include Global or International studies, Music and Fine Arts.
- ATN-affiliated institutions generally do not have a Bachelor of Arts program. Only two ATN institutions, University of South Australia and Curtin University of Technology, have a BA program that follows the definition of a BA program adopted in this study.
- There appears to be a movement away from ‘tagged’ degree programs, such as BA (Multicultural Studies). In the earlier scoping study, there appeared to be a trend towards increasing the numbers of tagged or named degrees. Tagged or named degrees were those identified as degree programs duplicating common major choices in the BA and offered as degree programs separate to the BA. In 2011, there was a move to collapse these programs back into a refined Arts degree.
- There is an increase in the number of advanced degree pathways offered since 2008, either as potential future offerings or currently available. These pathways offer students with a higher entry score additional challenges and pathways to research programs, such as Honours and MPhil/PhD. Since 2008, there have been two institutions with formal program offerings that formalise the pathways and there are indications that other institutions are considering the possible adoption of a formal program titled Bachelor of Arts (Advanced) or similar.
- Institutions located in regional areas or institutions with regional campuses typically offer a limited BA program. These limited programs display characteristics such as fewer majors, highly prescriptive programs and foundational units aimed at developing core skills. In institutions where there are offerings across both regional and metropolitan campuses, the program award is typically titled similarly on testamurs, although the student experience could be very different. This situation may suggest a possible equivalence issue that may come under TEQSA scrutiny in future.