Better pay better than cheap degrees 

29 June 2020

According to a leading academic, the key to fixing the problem of skills shortages in areas such as nursing is improved wages and conditions.

"If you want to get more people into a certain occupation, you should make the pay and conditions better in that occupation. It's no more complicated than that,’’ Richard Holden, a professor of economics at the University of NSW, was quoted in The Age newspaper.

"Doing it through what people pay on a deferred loan basis through HECS through their education is a very roundabout way to do it."

Under a Federal Government plan to encourage tertiary students to make more job-relevant choices, students studying nursing, teaching, clinical psychology, English, maths and languages will pay $3,700 a year.

The move means nursing students will pay 46% less for their degrees.

Conversely, fees for courses such as humanities, law, commerce and communications are set to spike under the proposed changes.

Professor Holden told The Age that universities would find students in lower fee-paying courses in STEM disciplines "less attractive" because they would get about $4500 per student per year less than they do now.

"This idea that people with arts degrees don't have good employment outcomes is not supported by the evidence," he was quoted.

"I think that government winner-picking has been a failure when it comes to industry policy."

ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said that: “ANMF has long argued for lower costs associated with nursing and midwifery courses. However, there is no doubt that attraction and retention in the workforce is significantly impacted by the wages and working conditions experienced.

“These include issues of workloads and safety – both for the staff and their clients involved,” Ms Dabars said.

“Nowhere is this combination of factors more evidently at play than in the aged care system – with low wages, high workloads and poor care outcomes in many cases leading to continuing problems with the attraction and retention of nurses and care staff.”