Goodbye Enquiring Mind, hello Indigenous knowledge & STEM electives
Words by Ivan Jankovic
The DVCA told us the decision to axe ARTS 1007 was partly due to the controversial JobsReady Graduate bill
For years, new students in the Arts Faculty have bonded over their mutual, surprisingly deep-seated hatred of ARTS 1007: Enquiring Mind, a compulsory first-year course, and usually among their first tastes of university learning.
Over the semester, students are introduced to a range of topics from disciplines within the Faculty, with an aim of promoting “critical thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration, resilience, research, and communication” (bleh).
While helping students transition to tertiary-level essay-writing and group work abilities, and offering a taste of previously unfamiliar subjects, the course has been criticised by students for being too broad in focus and eating up units that could be allocated to their majors and minors.
The Faculty revealed earlier this year through internal channels, and to the Student Representative Council, that the course will be discontinued from 2022. We now have more information about why that happened.
Executive Dean of Arts, Jennie Shaw, told On Dit the decision was partly influenced by the Federal government’s JobsReady Graduate (JRG) legislation. From 2021 onward, newly-enrolled students in some humanities programs face tuition fee hikes of up to %112 per course. As a result, she said “it now seemed unfair to mandate it for students.”
Language courses are, notably, one of the few exceptions, and are less expensive to study from this year.
She revealed that instead students will be given options for a first-year broadening elective.
“Students will take one of three options: a language or Indigenous knowledges course from a prescribed list; or an internship/work-integrated learning course (we are developing these as level 1 courses); or a STEM course from a prescribed list.”
The Indigenous knowledge courses are pre-existing and offered by Wirltu Yarlu, UofA’s Indigenous studies department.
“STEM is very broadly defined — so some of our digital media courses are there as well as courses from the STEM faculties. So, students will have a wide choice and can take into account their interests, the cost of the course, and then of course timetable and other factors.”
Though first-year STEM and Languages electives will cost less, per the government’s aim to push students into high demand sectors, Indigenous knowledge courses and internships will be costed at current JRG rates. Shaw, who told On Dit she believes the legislation is “profoundly unfair”, said the University has no control over the disparity.
It should be noted that due to the JRG, STEM electives may be incentivised over other broadening electives within the Arts Faculty due to the disparity in cost.
For reference, here is a comparison of tuition fees for equivalent courses in the aforementioned areas, costed for domestic students enrolled in a B. Arts:
ABORIG 1001 — Indigenous People, Country & Protocols: $1,812
ARTS 2201 — Industry Internship II: $1,812
MATHS 1004 — Introductory Data Science: $493
CHIN 1001 — Chinese IA: $493
SRC Education Officer Felix Eldridge told On Dit the decision was a long time coming.
“From my conversations with students, it was a notoriously unpopular course, especially among music students who often complained that the course had little relevance within their degrees.
“When I did the course I found it poorly structured, not engaging enough and of little overall value or relevance to my degree. I’m looking forward to seeing what new course options the University pursues to replace it.”
Deputy of Learning & Teaching of Arts, Linda Westphalen, said the change was about providing choice.
“They can choose something to broaden their knowledge beyond their focus of study or they can choose something that they see better relates to their program of study. And they can make choices based on the tuition fees. That’s a huge bonus.”
She also said the intention of Enquiring Mind was sound, but it was difficult to measure its long-term benefit.
“I think Enquiring Mind had a lot of benefits to students, but it was hard to get them to see the benefit. It really did aim to set the groundwork, in first year, for achieving well at university and beyond into careers. It was, like all our courses, evaluated by students in SELTs at the conclusion of the course, so we don’t get to see if it helped students in their studies in later years.”
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