The problem with Humanities . . .

By Kathleen Speirs

It’s no secret that applying to UCAS is a painful task, especially for those who aren’t sure of what they wish to do with their lives. However a degree course from the Humanities faculty at university has always been a popular option as solution to this common quandary.

Yet as an honours English and Spanish student I can confirm that any of the romantic notions about this faculty are, at times, problematic themselves.

One might suggest that commonplace subjects including Geography, History and French offer a kind of solace to the initial intimidation university life may bring. As opposed to signing up for classes titled ‘Artificial Organs’ or ‘Embedded Systems’, Humanities students need only concern themselves with topics somewhat more familiar such as ‘Grammar 2A’,  ‘Scottish History’ or  ‘Shakespeare Studies’. While students from other faculties may gain credit under lab conditions, via power point presentations, or through the design of a future gizmo, the rest of us are still throwing it back to circa 2008;furiously writing down everything we can possibly remember, hear, or interpret, from a series of essay-based questions in a crammed and usually chilly exam hall. Just like the good old days, eh?

The almost boundless sense of choice and opportunity gained from a degree in Humanities, frees us from the restraint of a more limited career path yet could be viewed as a hindrance as well as beneficial.

To put it bluntly, if one more person tells me that ‘the world is my oyster’ because my degree is, ‘nice and broad’, I think I may politely ask them to go to where the oysters came from and never come back.

Sentiments such as these only put immense pressure on us, to be working for some hot-shot creative industry in London with a ‘Mulberry’ handbag, ‘Mercedes Benz’ and six-figure salary to boot within approximately eighteen months of having graduated!  Indeed what excuse do we have, when we are so lucky to have had the world as our ‘oyster’ . . . ?

A fact known all too well by all graduates is that a degree is  merely a springboard to a career, What matters over the qualification itself is how it is utilised to get into the world of work.

Although it must be noted that prospective primary teachers, procurators or general practitioners have a more tangible vision of the light at the end of that four year tunnel, and are instructed with clarity as how to dive right in. Consider this, when would a medicine student for example ever be asked what area of work they would like to go into after graduating. Humanities students simply have to jump off, limbs sprawled in all possible directions and hope that any work experience, and guidance, they have gained over the years will not only keep them afloat, but also prevent any face-planting into the deep end of demoralization.

All things considered, I have no regrets in choosing to study humanities based subjects at university. I have had the opportunity to study an extreme wealth of literature, become (almost) fluent in another language, gain lots of friends and, of course, a year of living the Spanish life! One of the most important things I have learned from the Faculty of Humanities, and Social Science, however, has been that these degrees runs in tandem with real preparation for employment through experience beyond the realms of campus life.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);