We’ve known it was true all along. But since we’re historians, it’s always good to dig up some evidence to prove it. Last week’s edition of the Times Higher Education magazine distills the findings of a recently published report by the University of Oxford into the careers pursued by its humanities graduates (Humanities Graduates and the British Economy: The Hidden Impact). The results are simple, but striking:
Oxford has tracked the fortunes of around 11,000 alumni who joined the university between 1960 and 1989 and concludes that they have played a growing role in emerging UK industrial sectors, particularly finance and law …
Shearer West, head of humanities at Oxford, said that there was a worrying belief among the public that students should take only vocational subjects at university and that humanities degrees would not lead to high salaries.
“I get very concerned when I see pupils in schools being advised not to study humanities because they won’t get a job. It’s the cultural perception and it gets embedded without any evidence,” she added.
Yep, that’s right. Humanities graduates can be found everywhere in Britain, from the classroom to the City – and do pretty well for themselves in the process. And while we wait for a similar body of evidence to appear from this island, it is probably safe to assume that the pattern is relatively similar. Not that everything can be boiled down to earnings, of course, but at least this is a good response to the never-ending question of what you can do with a humanities degree. Answer: anything you want.
– Kevin O’Sullivan