Arts and humanities degrees – the very group of subjects that usually leads on to the question of ‘What will you do with that degree?’ or ‘Are you going to teach?’, or the classic ‘That’s a useless degree; become an engineer or something’.
As a Postgraduate History student, I have had all these questions thrown at me at every family gathering and by any stranger that wishes to hurl their opinion at me.
The question is though: how did we get to this point? How come STEM students are able to talk about their research passions, whilst humanities students cannot without judgment?
Well, the fight for more support of the humanities is a very contentious debate among universities, as well as arts and humanities institutions especially. Their argument is based on the belief that STEM subjects are overemphasised throughout schooling and society as a whole.
The Arts have received little to no funding since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, even though the government promised a £1.57 billion revival fund months previously
The Guardian made a particular note of this in 2015, reporting that overpaid university administrators are ‘squeezing every ounce of efficiency out of lecturers’ and placing a big emphasis on science, technology engineering and mathematics.
In many ways, this is putting particular weight on a certain set of life skills and neglecting others. Skills such as creativity and communication are just as important for the profitable video games industry as the game programmers themselves, and this is without touching on careers such as journalists in newspapers or on the TV.
This is a very real issue that has been noted within and beyond university boundaries, but comfortably ignored by the government themselves. In particular, according to the Arts Council, between 2010 and 2016, local authority investment in arts/culture had declined by £236 million; a continued trend in the five years since.
On top of that, the Arts have received little to no funding since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, even though the government promised a £1.57 billion revival fund months previously.
With the Government offering a £330 billion in government loan business bailouts at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is clear where the government’s priorities lie.
60% of the UK’s industry leaders have a humanities, social science or arts degree
This is not to say that STEM and business as a whole are not important in their own right. If it wasn’t for the first computer programmers, I wouldn’t be here typing out this article on my laptop.
I realise that not everyone in the world has the same educational opportunities that I do, and I feel very fortunate in that regard. But in no way should the importance of these sectors take away from the Arts and Humanities; proof of this the 82,000 people employed in performing arts, alone.
It is important to consider as well that, according to the New College of the Humanities, 60% of the UK’s industry leaders have a humanities, social science or arts degree – this throws the idea of these subjects not providing transferrable skills right out of the window.
This wilful ignorance within politics has lead to the dismissive attitudes towards the arts and humanities transferring to people’s opinions on and offline
As well, for those who choose to stay in the arts and humanities sector, they contribute greatly to research that has often been ignored.
To throw in my historical knowledge, historian Tony Judt once addressed some of the problems relating to the way in which history is treated. In a journal article, he considered how something that is past can be so embedded in our present, influencing both what is done now and what needs to be discussed for our future. You only have to look at the world to see how the political errors of today are rooted in the political landscape of the 20th century. We must learn from our past.
Furthermore, this wilful ignorance within politics has lead to the dismissive attitudes towards the arts and humanities transferring to people’s opinions on and offline.
Anyone who has studied or worked in the Arts and/or Humanities will be aware of this, but as I was conducting research for this article, I found an online forum which made this problem painfully clear to see.
On the page GameFAQs, within a thread discussing Liberal Arts, one user commented: ‘Liberal arts major lol that’s about as useless as a Communications degree’. Disregarding the irony of the user’s obvious grammatical mistakes, it sure shows the effects of a society which has put a big emphasis on one sector and mostly ignored the other.
This article is not here to provide exact answers, as this is a complex issue, but it is here to serve a reminder of what the Arts and Humanities have brought people: museums, music, art, video games, journalists, and countless more.
I leave everyone with this question: what would the world look like without the Arts and Humanities? I think it would be a pretty bleak place.
For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.