The River Thames outside DLD College London

The Value of Humanities: Head of Careers discusses key findings from Oxford University report

30th June 23

A new report, published by Oxford University called ‘The Value of Humanities’ underlines the transformational impact during a working life of studying a humanities subject.

The report’s key findings include:

1) Humanities graduates develop resilience, flexibility and skills to adapt to challenging and changing labour markets.

Employers interviewed for the report highlighted that disruption caused by COVID-19 and increased automation and digitisation will significantly change the nature of work in the next 5-10 years. The report said the “skills related to human interaction, communication and negotiation” learned while studying humanities will help them to meet future employer demands. This resilience helped graduates to cope and respond well to the impacts of the 2008 financial crisis. It seems set to have the same effect for graduates entering a post-COVID labour market characterised by increased digitalisation and remote working.

2) Humanities careers open a path to success in a wide range of employment sectors.

The business sector was the most common destination of humanities graduates (21%) over the period. 13% entered the legal profession and 13% went into the creative sector. There was a notable increase over time of graduates entering the ICT sector, particularly among women.

3) The skills developed by studying a humanities degree, such as communication, creativity and working in a team, are “highly valued and sought out by employers”.

Interviews with employers found they particularly valued the following traits in Humanities graduates:

  • Critical thinking
  • Strategic thinking
  • An ability to synthesise and present complex information
  • Empathy
  • Creative problem-solving

4) Humanities graduates benefit from subject-specific learning.

As well as the more transferrable skills like communication, graduates interviewed in the report showed that they draw throughout their careers on the sense of self-formation and the deep understanding they gain through studying histories, languages, cultures and literature on a humanities course.

5) Studying humanities helps graduates to make “wider contributions to society”.

Many interviewees in the report said their degree has enabled them to make an essential contribution to addressing the major issues facing humanity, and informed their sense of public mission and commitment. This includes navigating “fake news” and social media manipulation; climate change; energy needs; and the ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence.

6) Humanities graduates have high levels of job satisfaction and many said their primary motivation for studying their subject was not financial.

The report found that studying humanities subjects had a “transformative impact” on people’s identities and lives. Nonetheless, the average earnings of graduates assessed in the report were well above the national average, with History and Modern Languages graduates earning the most.

The report also makes recommendations to help young people make a transition into work, including offering support for a smooth transition into the workplace, providing internships focused in particular on less advantaged students, supporting skills development in digital, working in teams and providing students with insights into the changing labour markets.

Paul Schoonenberg, Head of Careers