PhB Arts Program Canned from 2020

Programs and Courses image of PhB Arts with a red x over the top.

By Kida Lin and Skanda Panditharatne

The Bachelor of Philosophy – Arts and Social Science (PhB Arts) program will not be accepting enrolments from 2020, with a replacement program currently in development. Current students and those who have already accepted offers for 2019 will not be affected.

The College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) PhB program, a research-focussed undergraduate degree, was promoted as being “designed for intellectually ambitious students who aspire to study at the highest level”. The program, however, has been plagued by low enrolments, with just six students commencing the degree in 2018. In an email sent to current students last week, CASS Deputy Dean & Associate Dean (Education) Royston Gustavson announced that the program will not be taking new students from 2020. All non-CASS PhB programs, however, will continue as before.

Current CASS PhB students will be able to complete their degree, with courses still being taught until they graduate, as long as that is within ten years. They will also be given the option of transferring to a replacement program, which was described by Gustavson as “a new advanced research-focused undergraduate program that will resonate in 2020 and beyond”.

The CASS PhB program, an unusual undergraduate research degree with an entry requirement of a 99 ATAR (without bonus points), has been heavily promoted by ANU since its introduction in 2003. However, enrolments have flagged in recent years and have never been high: for a mandatory first-year CASS PhB course, there were 13 enrolments in 2017, 11 in 2016 and just 9 in 2015. In response, the program has undergone a number of changes in recent years, most recently dropping the requirement that students maintain a High Distinction average grade for those commencing in 2018.

Gustavson mentioned a few directions that the proposed replacement program could pursue. These include:

  • Collaborating with the College of Asia and the Pacific (CAP) on a combined undergraduate research degree (currently CAP has their own PhB – Asia and the Pacific program), and consulting with other Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS)-related colleges for further collaboration
  • Allowing students to either choose a major and take honours in the area of the major, or take a broad selection of courses with a generic honours year (drawing from the successful Bachelor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics Honours and Master of Studies programs)
  • Allowing a combined PhB program as part of a Flexible Double Degree
  • Changing the name of the program, noting that students may currently be confused by ‘Philosophy’ as part of the title

Gustavson said that he hoped the new degree will be in place for students commencing in Semester 1, 2020. He indicated that after the mid-semester break, he would seek advice from current PhB Arts students regarding the development of the new degree. Tandee Wang, the Arts Representative from the ANU PhB Society, expressed his hope that “any changes will genuinely reflect the knowledge, opinions and experiences of current PhB students”.

ANUSA President Eleanor Kay told Observer that the association is aware of the proposed change and will work to support students during the phase out period. She invited students to pass on ideas for the new program to the CASS Representatives at [email protected]


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