Saving the humanities?
For a whole variety of reasons, subjects in the humanities are coming under severe pressure in higher education around the world. In the United States, students are increasingly choosing to study other subjects that they think are more visibly career-oriented, while in England the proposed new funding model may remove state support for humanities subjects altogether, so that students will have to pay fees amounting to the full cost. Furthermore university research in science, engineering and technology is getting the lion’s share of funding.
But what can be done? We cannot force students to choose courses they don’t want to study, and research funding models are unlikely to change dramatically. But there are things we can do. We can point to the significant social (and even economic) need for expertise in humanities subjects. We can point to the convergence of new media content with new technology, and the significance of the humanities in this process. We can aim to re-invent some of the humanities to make them more attractive to students who no longer instinctively understand or have a feeling for traditional disciplines. When money becomes available, we can ensure that higher education infrastructure is not consistently at its worst in the humanities.
A university system without the humanities, or one in which the humanities are studied by wealthy students only, is not a proper university system. We must be careful to ensure that this is not where we are going.
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