The criticism was aimed at an Oxford study published which assessed the careers of humanities graduates to raise questions about the government’s prioritisation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses.
The study, named Humanities Graduates and the British Economy: The Hidden Impact, observed that more humanities graduates from Oxford are now going into careers in media, finance, and law, altering previous trends which favoured teaching.
Collini, professor of English literature and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge, claimed that universities should not assess the value of academic courses based on their economic potential, stating that the study was “a saddening illustration of how not to do it”.
The head of humanities at the University of Oxford, Shearer West, stated, “I get very concerned when I see pupils in schools being advised not to study humanities because they won’t get a job. It’s the cultural perception and it gets embedded without any evidence.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that STEM is important to the economy. But what the report is demonstrating is the contribution that the humanities can make.”
However, Collini was not convinced by the study’s claims; he stated, “It is hard to know who exactly is supposed to believe that the statistics in such a report make a compelling case for the importance of the humanities.
“This is in effect saying: ‘Yes, we know this is not the real justification for studying these subjects, but there are some people…who can only understand the question in these terms’.”
Collini also claimed the report assumed that “if you make a quick killing in currency trading, then you obviously make more of a contribution than if you teach a child to read.”
A University of Oxford spokesperson said, “Our report shows that a humanities degree equips students for a range of careers and demonstrates to pupils that humanities are not an obstacle to choice of career.”