Often labelled the most ungrateful and aggrieved generation, 2020 has given the current crop of university students more than enough to complain about. I am often a critic of student pessimism, but this year has made me believe that our generation is actually onto something. With the price of degrees set to increase, online courses, and a graduate job market turned sour, it is worth taking a look at the current and future changes that face this generation of university students.
Relatively shielded from the turmoil of the world, Australian students like me are facing unique issues. As the price of a future humanities degree skyrockets nation-wide, at least we at the ANU can take consolation that our degrees will still be the best degree in the country for all that’s worth ($50,000+). For the rest of us lucky enough to enjoy the current rate of course payment, ANU has shifted to what appears to be a semi-permanent online learning approach. Out are the days of CASS and CBE courses with multiple tutors, large lecture theatres, and the prospect of meeting new people. In are online courses with reduced or no tutors and guaranteed technical issues.
Call me conspiratorial, but part of me believes that the online approach is a ploy to decrease the value of our courses to the point where future students will be begging to pay double for the full in-person experience. While I’m not on my knees yet, I’m also not one of the many future students faced with an ANU experience that begins and ends in the confines of my own house.
However, once our degree turns up in the mail, the future as a graduate looks just as bright as the bedroom lamp that lit up most of my fourth-year studies. As firms shutter their internship and graduate programs, graduates in Canberra are being herded into a virtual hunger games for APS jobs. With thousands of applicants with similar ANU double degree credentials, it’s a harsh introduction into the post-university world.
Not to worry, as there are always the non-Commonwealth supported ANU master’s programs that allow us to buy another year at the meagre cost of thousands of dollars up-front.
And for those of us who hoped to expand their horizons with a grad job overseas, Australia’s status as the only country that isn’t allowing its citizens to leave has finished off that prospect. I guess we can sleep tight knowing that COVID-19 is under control, with the notable exceptions of Victoria, NSW, and Queensland.
A constant platitude from the generations before us is that we should remain positive, given that they ‘managed’. If the last few paragraphs are any guide, the social and economic outlook remains pessimistic. With my focus set on the future, I can only remark that if current and future students manage to navigate the uncertain future set out ahead of us, it will be us that can really claim that we ‘managed’.