For years the prevailing narrative about the particular humanities on college campuses has been that they’re in steep decline, with the number of students electing to major in one of the fields within the humanities falling steadily for more than a decade.
But now comes a small bit of good news – the University of California, Berkeley reports that will it’s seeing a substantial rebound inside students interested in the humanities education.
Here are three relevant statistics that Berkeley cites to justify its claim:
- The number of individuals applying to Berkeley to become first-year college students majoring in the Division associated with Arts and Humanities is up 43. 2% compared in order to five years ago, and up 73% over 10 many years ago.
- The number of first-year learners who’ve declared majors in the arts and humanities is up 121% more than last year.
- Several departments — including art practice, comparative literature, philosophy, music, history of artwork, and film and media — are reporting the highest number associated with applicants in a decade.
Commenting on those numbers, Sara Guyer, Dean of Berkeley’s Division of Arts plus Humanities and director of the World Humanities Report, pointed to recent global events, such as the pandemic, that may have led more students to look toward the humanities because of their interest in addressing global challenges.
“So many associated with us, in our own ways, found ourselves in a series of unprecedented situations without a compass or guide, ” she explained. “It is not at all surprising that students are turning to the artistry and humanities as the way to make sense of our current moment. The particular imaginative, ethical, creative plus analytical contributions and historical observations associated with humanities research and artistic production provide a valuable way to understand the particular complexities brought on by contemporary difficulties. ”
If anything close to Berkeley’s increases were to be replicated at other institutions, it would represent a dramatic turnaround in what’s been typically described because a 25% decrease inside undergraduate humanities degrees since 2012. (At the graduate level , masters within the humanities have fallen 18. 5%, and doctoral degrees are usually down about 9% from their respective peaks. )
The most complete data on the majors of college graduates are maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which charts the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded simply by U. S. colleges and universities in 32 degree fields. (Think of a degree field as a major or a collection of related majors. )
According to NCES, between 2009–10 and 2019–20, the total number associated with bachelor’s levels conferred increased by 24%, from approximately 1 . 6 million degrees to around 2 . 0 million levels, but there were big shifts within the fields in which graduates majored.
Considering only those majors that had at least 5000 graduates in 2019-20, (the majority of recent year for which usually data are reported) nine fields of study experienced decreases inside awarded baccalaureates over this ten-year period despite the overall increase in college graduates. Associated with those 9 fields, six (English language/literature, foreign languages, liberal arts/humanities, theology, area/ethnic/cultural/gender studies plus philosophy/religious studies) were in fields subsumed under the particular humanities.
During that same time period, practical, occupationally oriented majors in business, health professions and various STEM fields saw substantial increases.
A smattering of some other signs suggest that the humanities might be staging at least a little comeback.
- At some universities – Georgia Tech is an example — there are usually anecdotal reports of greater student attention in integrating the humanities into ORIGINATE curricula. That interest may not translate into more English, history or even philosophy majors, but it’s likely to result in larger enrollments in a range of humanities courses.
- Last year, Arizona State University reported that will, from 2017 to 2019, the total number of first-year and transfer undergraduate college students majoring inside the humanities in The College associated with Liberal Arts and Sciences increased, with enrollment in online humanities programs growing by 17% from fall 2017 in order to fall 2019.
- Universities in the United Kingdom are seeing the boom inside students pursuing postgraduate degrees in the particular humanities, along with the many popular subjects being British, media studies, journalism, librarianship and information management, plus history. In the creative arts, design, music, drama, art, movie and innovative writing are usually gaining ground.
The particular decline from the humanities upon college campuses has been attributed to several causes, including increased student interest in levels that prepare them with regard to careers, a lack of a clear direction for many humanities programs and a perceived malaise that’s plagued several of these disciplines for years.
But as more students opt for occupationally linked majors, they also may be realizing that a good life plus good work require more than technical skills, scientific know-how and quantitative abilities. It requires the ability to analyze critically, think creatively, communicate clearly, and work cooperatively. It requires a capacity to ask hard questions of oneself and to reject easy answers. It takes empathy. Perhaps college students are discovering that the humanities offers them the best opportunities to cultivate these important habits.
So will Berkeley be the leader or an outlier on this score? Are the humanities poised to rebound nationally, or will their enrollment slide continue? Stay tuned regarding more in what could become an intriguing development.