As reported in FE News, a new report based on analysis by London Economic, ‘Qualified for the Future: Quantifying demand for arts, humanities and social science skills’ provides quantitative evidence for the employment benefits of studying the arts, humanities and social sciences at university.
The report finds that:
- Graduates of arts, humanities and social sciences are just as resilient to economic upheaval as other graduates and are just as likely to remain employed as STEM graduates during downturns
- Looking at the total UK workforce, arts, humanities and social science graduates are just as likely to be employed as their STEM counterparts; the 2017 Labour Force Survey shows that 88% of HSS graduates and 89% of STEM graduates were employed in that year
- Of the ten fastest growing sectors in the UK economy, eight employ more graduates from the arts, humanities and social science than other disciplines. They include the well-paid information and communication industry and finance sector
- HSS graduates are the backbone of the economy, with the majority working in the UK services sector. The service sector accounts for 81% of the UK’s total economic output and is second only to the US in export value globally
- HSS graduates will be essential to fill in the workforce gaps of the future, particularly those studying fine arts, history and archaeology, philosophy and theology, geography, sociology and anthropology
- While the health sector is the dominant destination for recent STEM graduates, HSS graduates choose to work in a wide range of sectors across the economy, including financial services, education, social work, the media and creative industries.
I have long been dubious of what I see as an overemphasis on STEM subjects from an employment perspective and this report would seem to support such scepticism. And I can well understand the advantages HSS graduates may have in their flexibility and employment resilience. However, one worry lies in that focus on jobs in the services sector. Obviously as a sector accounting for 81% of the UK's total economic output, the sector is very broad and will include a spread of occupations. Many, I fear will be in lower paid and precarious employment.