Home' The Good Universities Guide : The Good Universities Guide 2016 Contents Humanities and social sciences
What majors can I study?
The following are just some of the majors you can study in this
· Ancient history
· Information management ·
· International studies
To find out which institutions have courses with these specialisations, use
the Index on page 427.
What you're in for
If you are interested in pondering over the timeless life questions
and really getting your head buzzing, then it's hard to go past the
humanities and social sciences. This is the second largest of our
fields of study (after business and management), so there's a lot
to take in. It's also one of the most complicated, with many
courses and specialisations within courses, as well as different
kinds of careers and further study options.
Other related fields that may be of interest include business and
management, communications, economics, education and
training, languages, law, psychology and social work.
Courses and specialisations
There are some specialisations in this field that offer clear career
paths (such as counselling and library studies), while others are a
little more 'open ended'. In some fields, it can take a while for
graduates to reap the rewards of a generalist qualification. That
said, this is only the scene immediately after graduation. Years
down the track, some graduates are finding their way into
positions where communication, critical thinking, research and
problem-solving skills are highly prized.
Aside from the sometimes negative employment outcomes,
courses in this field are among the most appreciated and best-
taught courses in universities. They offer a thoroughly pleasant
way of studying, with usually only 12 or so 'contact' hours a week,
some of them non-compulsory. As you would expect, the courses
vary greatly in their ideologies and teaching approaches.
Disciplines like politics and philosophy are among the oldest of all
Western forms of learning - and with long histories come an
equally long list of schools of thought.
If you want to combine your passion for the humanities and social
sciences with something more applied, there are many double
degrees available - you can couple humanities with law,
education, engineering or business, just to name a few. Many
humanities graduates complete a postgraduate qualification to
get that vocational edge.
Where to study
If you're thinking about choosing a course in this field, you need
to consider the following:
· Courses are available at just about every campus in the
country, but even courses with the same name differ a great
deal from one campus to another in terms of their focus and
the specialisations offered. This can even be the case within
the same university, so browse carefully.
· There is much choice within as well as between courses, so
you don't stop making decisions on enrolment day.
· Once enrolled, you will probably have a lot of spare time. It
can be easy to forget why you're there.
· The loss of contact with practical learning and responsibility
doesn't work for some students.
· If you think you might go onto postgraduate research,
universities with established research track records are
usually the best.
This is also a field where it is highly beneficial to complete an
internship or international exchange to broaden and apply your
skills, which will prove useful when it comes time to look for a job.
Many courses offer part-time options, and quite a few will
accommodate distance education students. Most have modest
cut-offs and plenty of room for mature age and other special
To compare entry difficulty at different institutions, see the 'How
tough is it to get in?' tables in Section 4.
The introduction of the Australian Curriculum has seen history
being taught as a stand-alone subject up to Year 10 in every
school across the country, while the second phase follows on with
an emphasis on geography and the arts. It is hoped that this will
have a flow-on effect, with more students continuing the study of
the humanities into university.
The Australian Government has introduced a number of
initiatives in recent years to encourage Australians to embrace
their ties within the Asia-Pacific region, with calls for universities
to increase courses in areas such as Asian cultural studies and
provide greater opportunities for student exchange across the
Amid some educators' concerns that the more vocational
'creative industries' will impact on enrolment and course numbers
in the humanities and social sciences, measures are being taken
to emphasise the value of the generalist humanities degrees.
This has seen universities introduce internship components, final-
year capstone subjects to reinforce the knowledge learned over
the course of the degree, concurrent language diplomas and
A university model similar to some overseas systems has the
potential to become more common in the field. It involves
completing a generalist undergraduate degree (such as arts),
followed by a professional graduate program to qualify for a
HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 125
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