The Bachelor of Arts: slipping into the twilight or facing a new dawn?

Deanne Gannaway

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Undergraduate students have historically engaged with the humanities and social sciences through the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree programme. Recent experiences suggest that the relevance and the value of the degree to the modern world is now being challenged: populist press questions the value of the humanities to the modern knowledge economy; public funding for teaching in the social sciences and humanities in higher education has been slashed in the UK and elsewhere; humanities and social sciences schools and departments in the USA, New Zealand and Canada rationalised and restructured; BA programmes in some Australian universities closed. All seems to suggest that the sun is setting on the BA. This paper argues that, in Australia at least, these actions have been made on the basis of a flawed understanding of contemporary BA programmes. It asserts that the contemporary BA is a very different creature to that of even the recent past. The paper offers a new definition of the contemporary Australian BA degree programme developed as a result of a comparative historical analysis research study across 39 Australian institutions. It extends an argument that perhaps the time is right for a re-examination of what is meant by ‘BA’ – before we declare the degree a relic of the past.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)298-310
    Number of pages13
    JournalHigher Education Research and Development (HERDSA)
    Issue number2
    Early online date2015
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2015


    • Bachelor of Arts
    • comparative historical analysis
    • curriculum
    • higher education
    • teaching and learning practice


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