A university is harnessing the power of celebrity as part of its campaign attempting to "bust myths" surrounding the long-maligned Bachelor of Arts degree.

Massey University has released videos featuring comedian Jeremy Corbett and actor Antonia Prebble, who talk about how the humanities course has helped them, and what it can be used for.

Prebble, from Kiwi drama Outrageous Fortune, says her degree in English literature and French has enhanced her career and personal development. Business, political and creative talents also feature in the series about how the BA has shaped their careers.

Director of the arts programme, Professor Richard Shaw, said the campaign was part of a wider push back against the long-held disdain for the degree, which was largely because it "didn't sound like a job" meaning parents were reluctant to push their children towards it.


"One of the things that increasingly aggravates me is that there's a sense it's a second class qualification or not demanding, and it's only because it doesn't sound like a profession in the way accounting or medicine does," he said.

"How many times have you heard people say, why are you doing a BA -- you'll wind up being a teacher or a nurse. As if that's the worst thing to happen."

Professor Shaw said one of the worst effects of the negative attitudes towards the degree -- which includes subjects as wide-ranging as English, drama or criminology -- was that students then felt it was less worthy.

He said there was a humble, often apologetic mind set from many BA students, "who seem to have internalised the derisive, ill-informed views about the degree that reflect a tradition of anti-intellectualism".

"Which is crazy when there are waves of evidence that the very things we teach in a BA -- how to think, how to write questions, how to be nosy -- that stuff is really central to what the world needs in its employee.

"You can't have a functioning, vibrant, democratic society without the kind of environment the BA provides."

The "myth busting" followed a revamp of the degree, which would now include core papers about citizenship at each level.

As well as providing students with information about identity and belonging in New Zealand, it was hoped that having common, compulsory papers would help bring the arts students at the college together.

Numbers in arts degrees have been falling in the long term, although Massey said its course entries were up by 14 per cent last year.