Revamping the BA

My first degree was a BA in politics at Auckland. The regular question people asked me back then was “so what are you going to do with that? Be a teacher?” as if that was the only career option. The best response wasn’t my own, it was a classmate, who said, “hey, whatever I bloody well like!”

And behind that lay more than one very good point. Completing a BA opens a host of possibilities, supporting students to be ever more open to different ways of thinking and different avenues to pursue.

For me, the BA was a really important platform in thinking critically, writing clearly and engaging in debate. It allowed me and my classmates to follow our interests and passions but also to have our perspectives challenged, and in so doing, to build greater clarity in our thinking.

My subsequent MA and much later down the track, a PhD, built on that foundation and supported me to follow a career path that traversed parliamentary support, social research, public health policy, urban form, health systems, and ultimately supported me to build a research and evaluation practice.

These reflections all came to mind when I was asked last year, with Rachael Butler, to work with Massey University to craft an evaluation framework for its redesigned BA programme.

Massey has reshaped its BA around a core set of five purpose-built papers focused around critical thinking, transferable skills, citizenship and identity. These are allied with initiatives that more strongly bring BA students into a community within the degree programme.

Our work was focused around exploring the outcomes and learnings from redesigning the BA, as well the redesigned BA degree itself. It was a great opportunity to reflect on our own BA experiences, and to applying evaluative thinking in keeping the BA relevant in the 21st century.

Just recently, Professor Richard Shaw, who led the redesign project at Massey, was interviewed on National Radio. He highlighted the value of the BA in supporting the development of people who can craft a good question, deal with unpredictability, and in short, make sense of difficult stuff – and that these are the people who will be able to deal with jobs that right now don’t even exist.

Richard’s interview can be accessed from RNZ here.