Business degrees are becoming less desirable among Australian students, with research showing applications for management and commerce degrees declined 15.4% over the decade to 2011.
The research, conducted by the Group of Eight, is detailed in a report titled Go8 Policy Note 5 – Demand for Higher Education by Field. Group of Eight is a coalition of Australian universities.
The report reveals that from 2001 to 2011, the number of applications for university places increased by 17.8%, or just over 37,000.
Over this period, demand for degrees in health, society and engineering grew. Across all health fields, applications rose by 27,000 or 78%, according to the report.
“The other fields recording big increases were society and culture/creative arts (up by 10,004 or 15.2%), natural and physical sciences (up by 5,431 or 38.2%) and engineering (up by 4,578 or 38%),” it said.
“A few fields recorded declines in demand. Applications for IT fell by nearly 9,000, or 60.9%. Management and commerce – one of the biggest fields – fell by 5,760, or 15.4%.”
This year – the first year in which universities could offer as many places as they wanted – offers in business rose by 2.9%, which was more than information technology and creative arts.
However, health recorded the largest increase at 10.2%, followed by science at 7%.
Amir Nissen, founder of Student Entrepreneurs at the University of Melbourne, says business degrees are becoming less important as hands-on experiences become more accessible.
“The local events have been numbering in the hundreds for [the tech start-up sector],” Nissen says.
“There’s also a strong social entrepreneurial flavor, with some social enterprise hackathons and boot camps drawing a number of the younger generation of entrepreneurs.”
“Personally, I think it’s an exciting time to get into entrepreneurship as there’s potential in almost every sector.”
“It’s never been more feasible or realisable for someone to plug in a laptop and get their message out, providing a product or service to some market niche as yet untouched by the internet.”
According to Tim Brailsford, former executive dean of the University of Queensland Business School and now vice-chancellor of Bond University, the softening of demand is a global trend.
“Demand for business graduates has come off a peak, and that peak was probably around about 2006 and 2007,” Professor Brailsford told The Australian Financial Review.
Brailsford said business students – with majors in disciplines with strong vocational outcomes, such as accounting – fare better than those who choose to specialise in something like marketing.