As an English lit student, I’m sick of my degree being labelled ‘low value’

We’re constantly degraded for our so-called lack of job opportunities when compared to STEM courses

As an English lit and creative writing student, you can imagine that I was rather appalled to hear that Sheffield Hallam has decided to scrap its English literature degree for the 2023/24 academic year.

Apparently, English literature can be seen as a “Mickey Mouse” degree with “low value”. The government has decided to crack down on degrees where “highly skilled” jobs are not offered to students within six months of graduation. (Hallam has said English literature will “remain part of” a broader English degree, and its Vice Chancellor said the move was not to do with “a broader national concern about the government’s attitude to the arts and humanities”.)

I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the fact that English literature degrees are constantly demeaned and degraded for their so-called lack of job opportunities when compared to STEM or finance courses.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just read a YA novel every three weeks for my course. I don’t just sit and make up stories or string a couple rhymes together and call it a poem. I’ve learnt about culture, history, politics, psychology, art, anthropology, gender studies, queer studies, race and even science: I’ve essentially studied humanity. Is that not “highly skilled” enough for the UK government?

To me, this marks the demise of the arts. Since when did education stop being about education? Being able to study something I genuinely love is a privilege, and yes, I study the arts because I love it. For me, my education is not just a gateway into some fancy job – it’s something I want to pursue for the sake of pursuing.

Put simply, I love what I do. Is that such a revelation? As a creative writing student, I hate a cliché. But is it so hard to believe that, at the end of the day, it’s not all about the money? I can already hear certain cash-crazed STEM and finance students screaming at me: What about my future? Do I not want a big house with a flashy car?

To say that I don’t care about money would be a lie. I love sushi and it costs me greatly; I want to afford the best restaurants for my girlfriend; I want stylish clothes on my back and I want to treat my kids to expensive holidays one day.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a highly paid job. But when we start to make that the focus of education and strip others of the opportunity to study something they love, that’s what’s tragic. My problem lies within the fact that society has become so concerned with materialism that it’s started to look down on others.

To critics, I’m just another English student romanticising the world around me, just a naive daydreamer. But someone has to be, right? It’s my job as an arts student, and I am (surprisingly) highly skilled in it.

Without the freedom to study art, humanity and literature, what kind of dark dystopia would we live in?  There’s a couple of good books about that, actually.

Sheffield Hallam’s Vice Chancellor said: “Our relatively modest portfolio revision has been conflated with a broader national concern about the government’s attitude to the arts and humanities.

“We have made some changes to our English literature provision from 2023. It will remain part of a broad-based English degree which features language, literature and creative writing.” The change will not involve job losses.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: “The claims that Sheffield Hallam’s decision to make changes to their English literature provision from 2023 relates to the proposals on quality, appear to stem from a single tweet by one academic, unsubstantiated by evidence.

“Their English department’s outcomes are well above these minimum thresholds – as is the case for most English courses.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Introducing: The new uni league table that cares about student mental health

Embarrassingly, the government is investing just £1 per student as part of new mental health support package

• Strikes and a pandemic have left my uni experience in tatters. I want my money back