Radcliffe Observatory Quarter
The Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, home of Oxford University's Humanities Division.

Humanities and social sciences degrees 'develop key employment skills'

Matt Pickles

Arts graduates - do you have that one friend who always criticises your degree? Well, we have some good news - a new report released by the British Academy has evidence to back you up.

The Academy has published a report into the skills that the 1.25 million students who study arts, humanities and social science (AHSS) develop through their degrees.

Researchers found that the skills in demand from employers were the same as those developed by studying AHSS: namely, communication and collaboration, research and analysis, and independence and adaptability.

Oxford set the agenda for this kind of research in 2013, when it commissioned a report into the destinations of Oxford graduates of English, History, Philosophy, Classics and Modern Languages.

After tracking the employment history of 11,000 graduates, it found that 16-20% were employed in key economic growth sectors of finance, media, legal services and management by the end of the period. Over the period, the number of graduates employed in these sectors rose substantially.

The British Academy’s report takes this further and pinpoints why it is that AHSS graduates have such success in these fields. And Oxford’s Head of Humanities, Professor Karen O’Brien, is delighted.

"We warmly welcome the report's articulation of the higher level skills and competencies which arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) bring to the national workplace,” she says.

“The report demonstrates the valuable ability of AHSS graduates to evaluate ambiguous information and to seek nuanced solutions in contexts of social and cultural complexity.

"At a time when many jobs are likely to be lost through automation, the communicative and analytical skills imparted by AHSS degrees may become more relevant than ever."