What are the biggest factors for school leavers when deciding what to study?

Genuine interests and passion have been cited as the most important factors for school leavers when deciding what course to study at university. Tuition fees and the amount of Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) debt students accumulate over their studies didn’t play a key role. Despite the 110 per cent increase in most humanities degrees, demand for the Bachelor of Arts continues to rise as the most popular humanities degree in New South Wales (White, 2022).

According to Financial Review, four in five higher school certificate (HSC) students cited passion for subject matter as the biggest deciding factor when choosing a university course (Hare, 2022). Only 44 per cent of students had employability as their first priority, followed by internship and work experience, ability to get accepted, and quality of teaching. Only 12 per cent of students considered university status and placing on world rankings as key criteria in their decision-making (White, 2022).


What changes has the pandemic brought?

Following the pandemic, more students were now more concerned about planning for their future and financial security, and 91 per cent talked about saving money, rather than opting for an overseas gap year experience (Hare, 2022).


What does the data say?

Universities Admissions Centre 2021 data showed the proportion of year 12 students applying for humanities-based subjects in New South Wales such as Society and Culture increased by 9 per cent between 2020 and 2022 (University Admissions Centre, 2022).


What value do humanities subjects play?

The value of humanities studies can be seen in students’ abilities to develop critical thinking skills and different ways of approaching real-world problems. Professor Catharine Coleborne, president of the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities explains that there is evidence that workforces need the set of skills provided by a humanities degree (White, 2022). These skills can be applied to highly relational fields such as counselling and social work, for example.


Interested in a career in the humanities?

If you are passionate about extending yourself, why not explore Excelsia College’s suite of courses offered that can utilise a humanities skill set such as creative and performing arts, social work and counselling.



Hare, J. (2022, May 25). School leavers chasing passions over employment. Financial Review.

University Admissions Centre. (2022). Domestic undergraduate applications and offers at semester 1 closing 2021. https://www.uac.edu.au/media-centre/statistics/domestic-undergraduate-applications-and-offers-at-semester-1-closing-2021

White, D. (2022, June 6). Students flock to humanities degrees despite huge fee increases. Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/students-still-flock-to-humanities-degrees-despite-huge-fee-increases-20220601-p5aq6n.htm