Why the BA is the degree of the future


Is the Bachelor of the Arts (BA) threatened with extinction? Not according to Prof. Paul Spoonley, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Massey University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

In fact, in his interview with Radio NZ's Jesse Mulligan last week, Prof. Spoonley argued - rather convincingly - that the BA is the degree of the future. This comes at a time when many students are increasingly turning to 'vocational qualifications' - degrees or other qualifications that prepare them for a particular job, such as engineering, IT or marketing - and the BA is seen as being in decline as it loses relevance.

But Spoonley argues that as we face unprecedented change in the job market, where many jobs will before long be taken over by robots, the BA has never been more important. More than ever before, young people need transferable, 'soft' skills, which can be applied usefully to any job that involves thinking or interaction with people. He lists critical thinking, asking the right questions, problem-solving and working in teams as valuable skills that students develop as part of a BA. He also laments the decline in language studies at a time when the world is experiencing unprecedented globalisation. As explored in a previous post, the learning of foreign languages not only enables people to communicate with others with different worldviews, it also opens the mind in ways that other learning cannot.

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