PRIA launches the Australian Communications Advocacy Group in response to proposed university fee hike

The Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) has launched the Australian Communications Advocacy Group (ACAG), advocating against the federal government’s proposed changes to the university fees for arts and communications students.

The proposed changes announced by education minister Dan Tehan in June, would more than double the price of humanities courses, including communications and PR degrees, following a 91.9% funding cut. At the time PRIA’s national president, Leigh McClusky, condemned the changes, stating they were ‘ham-fisted’ and short sighted.

The ACAG has been formed to advocate for those entering the communications industry

The fee changes come under the government’s ‘Jobs Ready Graduate Package’, which has been designed to encourage study in ‘job-relevant’ fields such as nursing, teaching, maths, science, health and architecture, by lowering the fees.

Research backing the ACAG’s launch from consultancy Lonergan Research found that almost three-quarters of Australians believe it is not fair to penalise students who are not suited to STEM courses. 70% of Australians believe all university courses should receive equal funding from the government.

In response to ACAG’s launch, PRIA’s McClusky said the proposed changes are unacceptable.

“These changes mean that humanities students will now face a massive 113% increase in pursuit of their chosen careers. Potential communications students will now have to find $14,500 each year of their university education, up from the current level of $6,804 per annum. That is simply unacceptable,” she said.

“Ensuring equal access to communications is crucial to powering everything from health outreach to infrastructure projects – if we want communications to be accessible and effective for all Australians, we want a diverse and informed workforce. This policy strikes at the heart of this endeavour.”

McClusky: ‘Our industries are ready for this fight’

NSW PRIA president, Shane Allison, added: “Australians value fairness – particularly so when it comes to educational outcomes – and the Prime Minister needs to recognise that these changes are just not fair.

“Our research shows that the vast majority of Australians recognise that these changes are discriminatory, penalise students who aren’t suited to STEM subjects and undervalue the skills acquired through an arts education.”

Alongside PRIA, the ACAG has been founded by the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) in Australasia and International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) chapters in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra.

International IAP2 chair, Kylie Cochran, warned against a reduction of people entering the industry.

“A lack of graduates in the industry will mean less people working in community engagement, risking the right of communities to comment on the development and assessment of government infrastructure projects,” Cochran said.

“Public participation and engagement are driven by skilled professionals and effective communication is at the core of this. The government’s fee increase decision risks delays to the very infrastructure projects the government is using as their foundation for post-COVID recovery.”

IBAC vice chair, Danielle Bond, said: “Many organisations in STEM industries in Australia are actively targeting humanities graduates as they recognise that the complex challenges facing our businesses and communities require diverse thinking. We need STEAM, not STEM alone. Communications and humanities trained professionals bring much needed critical thinking and creativity to the workplace.”

McClusky added: “Our industries are ready for this fight. As soon as this short-sighted announcement was made, the PRIA knew that we needed to act, and we were overwhelmed with offers of support from commercial organisations and industry groups to get ACAG off the ground.”

“The industry skills and critical thinking nurtured by humanities qualifications are increasingly required in our society and should not be the exclusive enclave of only those students with very deep pockets.

“The Federal Government needs to overturn this decision, now, and ACAG looks forward to welcoming more members from across the communications industry in support of this important initiative.”

The ACAG has already gained support from organisations in the communications industry, The Possibility Partnership, WPP AUNZ, Lonergan Research and The Savage Company.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.