Designing the Future of Humanities Education Through Partnerships with Industry and Students

Panos Vlachopoulos
Macquarie University

Neil Durrant
Macquarie University

Martina Mollering
Macquarie University

Peter Keegan
Macquarie University

Arts, humanities and social science graduates have essential workforce skills, which are too often unrecognised. One of the challenges for humanities and social sciences disciplines in Higher Education is to clearly identify valuable transferable skills that industry and society need and to develop courses that enable students to acquire and demonstrate these skills though their studies. Universities need to offer quality university courses in Humanities and Social Sciences that equip students with the confidence to articulate the acquisition of these transferable skills when seeking employment or future studies following graduation.As part of the Bachelor of Arts 2020 redesign project, the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University used a design thinking based methodology to run a series of workshops with academics, students, industry, organisations as well as public sector institutions to scope the type of transferable skills attained when completing a Bachelor of Arts.

After setting the scene using quotes and references from contemporary reports and publications (Deloitte, 2018; The social sciences shape the nation report, 2017; Small, 2011; Watts, 2011), the main focus of this case study presentation will be the presentation and discussion of the key findings from the design workshops, which informed the development of the new Macquarie BA framework. Using a thematic analysis, all views from industry, public sector, students and academics were captured and analysed in order to be included in the new transferable skills framework. Some key findings include the strong views by industry that it is not just the skills, but the behaviours that a Humanities and social science graduates display, and that such graduates are comfortable with asking questions and in dealing with uncertainty as well as have the capacity to collaborate using an interdisciplinary approach. On the other side industry and government organizations expressed the view that student in the humanities are not able to sell themselves and their skills in an interview and are not always open to innovative thinking and entrepreneurial approaches to work.

The outcome of this collaborative approach to curriculum design was a total revamped of the Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie University. The new humanities degree, which is offered for the first time in February 2020, contains key transferable skills such as design mindset, sense making and system thinking; a skills portfolio and microcredentialliing of skills; and a grad recruitment process alignment. Our Industry professional and academic workshops to design the Humanities & Social Sciences in the World foundation unit resulted in the development of real-world team -based learning scenarios, video of career and skills stories by industry representatives and agreed extracurricular options (content and delivery) by companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, and Cisco. Finally the faculty of arts has agreed to run a 2 day bootcamp on innovation and design thinking as part of the new BA.
For more information about the new Bachelor of Arts please visit