Federation University has dropped its Bachelor of Arts degree amid falling enrolments in a decision the National Tertiary Education Union has described as "devastating" and "demoralising".
The Victorian university announced this week that the BA program would close at all campuses from 2023, impacting students and staff.
NTEU Victorian Assistant Secretary Sarah Roberts said an Arts degree was a critical part of what universities must offer.
"This is a demoralising day for humanities in Victoria," she said. "It is a hammer blow for students who want to live regionally and study arts."
Ms Roberts said the critical thinking skills and breadth of knowledge that arts graduates gained from their studies helped make the country stronger.
"An arts degree must be a bedrock offering for all universities. Federation University management needs to factor the costs of running its BA program into its business model, just as other universities do. The BA program needs investment and support, and urgently.
It is a hammer blow for students who want to live regionally and study arts- Sarah Roberts
Federation University NTEU branch president Mathew Abbott said the Bachelor of Arts was a core program and called on the Federal and Victorian governments to step in.
"We need an urgent intervention with emergency funding to save this key pillar of regional higher education," he said. "That would send a clear message that a Bachelor of Arts is a non-negotiable offering for all universities."
Federation University acting vice-chancellor Professor Wendy Cross said the COVID pandemic had caused a significant drop in international enrolments as well as a drop in domestic student enrolments which had impacted on the university's finances.
"As part of our plan to be strong and sustainable, we regularly review our programs and courses to ensure they meet student and industry needs and remain viable to operate," Professor Cross said.
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"Unfortunately, an ongoing and steady decline in student numbers means we will not be able to offer the Bachelor of Arts in 2023. Student commencements have fallen from 83 in 2018 to just 27 in 2022."
Professor Cross said three employees were affected, and would be redeployed where possible.
"Federation will continue to offer many of the courses that were part of the BA program," she said.
Professor Cross said the university had a key role to play in driving economic growth and jobs in its regions, and to do this the university must be strong and sustainable.
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