Doing an Arts and Humanities degree doesn’t make me inferior

So stop telling me I’m worthless

It seems like not a day goes by without the appearance of a new article about how humanities students will always earn less, how we have shit job prospects, and basically, how we’re worth less than our friends studying Science, Engineering and Maths degrees. I don’t get it – why are STEM subjects taken so much more seriously than arts and humanities, when we contribute so much to society?

It’s hurtful and Nigel Farage is laughing at us.

First off, it’s so confusing. Growing up we’re told we can be whatever we want to be: a nurse, a vet, a teacher, an ice cream man, an artist, a ballerina, a librarian: “do what makes you happy” they said, “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” they said. Except a History degree. Don’t do that. It’s how our society works – we have choose our own paths. So we need to stop denigrating people for making those choices.

Picture this: you’ve spent 3 hours reading a 84 page article on the Urbanisation of 18th Century Scotland. The font is size eight. Your hands are stained with highlighter, your mouth is dry and nothing looks like a word anymore. You’ve hit The Wall. In your desperation you decide to take two minutes to have a scroll through Facebook: “Education secretary Nicky Morgan says an arts degree could ‘hold you back for the rest of your lives'”. Not exactly motivating.

At least we get to study at Old College

We pay £9,000 a year for hardly any contact hours, hardly any scholarships or funding, and it’s impossible to get a 100 on a humanities essay – we are constantly striving for the unattainable. As well as this, it’s assumed we don’t work as hard because we’re not in lectures 9-5. People forget illegible primary sources and 3,000 word essays aren’t going to read and write themselves.

It’s almost as offensive as the enduring stereotype of the “middle class white girl wasting daddy’s money on a Philosophy degree”. Believe it or not – some people are genuinely interested in what Plato had to say, and want to spend their lives talking and reading about it. Humanities degrees allow us to have a greater perspective of the world and the people around us, while science degrees give us numbers. Oh wait, and some more numbers. Very few of us are going to change the world in either field, but at least our degrees allow us to hold an intelligent conversation.

Lets be realistic here, some people are just suited to different subjects. All that “left brain, right brain” malarkey (someone doing neuroscience would probably know what I’m talking about) has some basis in facts. At the end of the day, some people don’t enjoy Maths, and someone doing a Physics degree might not be able to string an essay together. Or hold a conversation with another human.  Anyway, we can’t all do sciences and Engineering.

…and not Kings Buildings

Seriously though, without Arts and Humanities where would the world be? We wouldn’t have teachers, historians, authors, artists, social workers, politicians (a certain female Prime Minister studied Chemistry and we all know how that went), musicians, journalists or lawyers, to name but a few. Not only are some of these careers integral to society, they also enrich all of our lives.

Who do you think is going to write the next Harry Potter? A Civil Engineer? Please.

Imagine a world without the Arts and Humanities. No, really, think about it. It’s 2024. Humanities have been banned from Universities, the only subjects taught in schools are sciences and maths. The only channels on TV are Quest and Dave, with Dave being restricted to 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, but only because it’s got numbers. The only other programmes shown are How it Works and shit Brian Cox documentaries. The world is grey. Everyone is depressed. Nothing grows.

This may be a slight exaggeration, and it is true that we need science and medicine to keep us in good health, engineering to keep us sheltered and fed, and maths for computing. However, without Arts and Humanities degrees we would be living a bleak existence, merely surviving. Every time you laugh at a TV show, or listen to your favourite band – remember where those jokes and notes came from. 

If you want to spend your degree learning about the Communist Manifesto, French literature or Theology, that’s great. And if you want to spend your degree discussing soil, the anatomy of a frog, or quantum mechanics, that’s cool too.

But can we stop giving arts and humanities students less respect for studying what interests them?