For most students, transitioning from high school to varsity brings an exciting prospect of learning what one loves, rather than what is required to merely pass. There is however, that lingering afterthought of job security upon graduation. This afterthought plays a significant role in determining which degree a student chooses. The variety of bursaries offering to fund scarce skills courses does not make the decision any easier for prospective students.
I recently had lunch with three of my friends; two of whom are studying a BCom Law degree, with the other pursuing a BA Law degree. I was amazed at how the conversation shifted from BA students having it easy to insulting remarks about how BA students ought to either have a backup plan regarding future financials or marry rich’. Being a BA student myself, I felt excluded from the discussion, and at some point, I started to question my choice of study.
It is no secret that the BA degree comes with a lot of stereotypes, and in an environment like Wits, it is perceived as being lowest on the hierarchy of intelligence. One of the ways to emphasize this lies in the building of the university. A comparison of the Wits Science Stadium with the Wits School of Arts, which is in dire need of renovation, is one of these. Arguably, the Wits Arts Museum (WAM) is in great shape; however, the question is why this is so.
Well, from a personal perspective, the kind of environment where Arts students learn does not have much significance, however, the products of these students labor, with reference to WAM, is important for the good representation of the university’s public image. Although looked down upon, a BA degree improves writing and communication skills, exposing the students to different fields of interests at the same time. What students from other faculties fail to understand is that the flexibility of the BA degree and the application of theory do not guarantee a distinction. It is not about the binary between right or wrong answers. It is all about broadening your understanding. Successful BA degree-holders include EFF leader Julius Malema, who graduated with a BA in Political Sciences from Unisa, and Mashabela Galane who has a Wits University Honors Degree in Dramatic Arts and Media Studies.
In essence, if the BA degree was prioritized as much its fellow counterparts, if more funding was provided to these students, and if more job opportunities were opened up, the BA degree would have greater significance than it does now. At Wits, publications such as the Vuvuzela, outlets such as Vow FM, and blogs such as @exPress_imPress play a significant role in making this degree worthwhile and enjoyable.