Traditional Humanities still a good choice
It is often wrongly assumed that traditional humanity subject such as English, European languages, History and other will become increasingly unpopular with school students looking for degree courses. I have even heard one parent instruct their teenage child that studying English is a waste of time, and what job was he going to get for all that debt?
It is such often general misconceptions amongst both students, parents and some teaching colleagues that many career teachers have to battle when advising a student with a real interest or talent for such subjects.
In the case of English, whether the presumed more practical English Language or the more ‘arty’ English Literature, graduate employment rates can often be much higher than a pure vocational subject like law for example. Bev Evans the student recruitment manager at Swansea University’s College of Arts & Humanities told us that “Graduate employment rates amongst even our Literature students are pretty good, and have been even over the last few years.” Analysis seems to hint that employers find graduates who have achieved good success and shown a passion as attractive as degree relevancy. We suspect in Swansea’s case that a beachside location less than 10 minutes from the M4 might also be a factor.
In the case of European Languages then a more ‘vocational’ application might explain to have influenced consistent success in undergraduate recruitment in some universities (though not all). Head of European Languages at Aberystwyth, Professor David Trotter said, “Our graduate success is not based on old fashioned ideas of translation or teaching careers. Business employers find the fact that a graduate understands as much of the culture as the language of France, Germany, Spain, Italy or any of our other language courses, highly attractive. After all, the UK does most of its business with its EU partners.” Having said that, Professor Trotter did admit that his department attracted considerable research grant money doing translation work, in his case for a study of ancient Anglo-Norman French.
What seems to be common with the continued strength of the humanities at some universities and amongst students and employers, appears to be the old fashioned criteria of course quality and reputation; allied to student success as measured by graduation results. As careers teachers and advisers, we need to be aware that our students may well be better off studying Shakespeare or Dylan Thomas, than commercial law or computing.
More info for you and your students on English in the current issue of “Courses and Careers” e-magazine on www.courses-careers.com