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Arts, Humanities and Social Science graduates resilient to economic downturns, according to new report

Graduates in the arts, humanities and social sciences are just as employable as their counterparts in other subjects according to a new report from the British Academy examining the employment prospects of graduates from different subject groups.

7 May 2020

A picture of a sculpture
A picture of a sculpture

The report finds that graduates from the humanities and social sciences (HSS) are just as resilient to economic upheaval as other graduates and are just as likely to remain employed as graduates of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects during downturns.

Strong employment prospects

Looking at the UK workforce as a whole, HSS graduates are as likely to be employed as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates. The 2017 Labour Force Survey shows that 88 per cent of HSS graduates and 89 per cent of STEM graduates were employed in that year. 

According to the report, HSS graduates are the backbone of the economy, with the majority working in the UK services sector. The service sector accounts for 81 per cent of the UK’s total economic output and is second only to the US in export value globally.

Transferrable skills

HSS graduates will also 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.

In addition, the report found that HSS graduates work in a wide range of sectors across the economy, including financial services, education, social work, the media and creative industries. 

Professor Matthew Hilton, Vice Principal of Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen Mary University of London said: “What must now be obvious to everyone is just how important the humanities and social sciences are to understanding the world we find ourselves in.

"The crisis has made clear just how crucial our disciplines are, from understanding the modes and languages of communication, rhetoric and performance, to interpreting the causes, determinants and consequences of human behaviour in often very different societies. 

“We are able to appreciate how social change takes place, how individuals and institutions can develop policies and practices to shape that change in a just and ethical manner, and how cultures, societies, economies and politics can be reimagined.” 

Hetan Shah, Chief Executive of the British Academy said: “The evidence speaks for itself: arts, humanities and social science graduates are as employable as any other graduates and fare particularly well in times of economic decline. 

“We are increasingly living in a knowledge-based, creative and services economy. Arts, humanities and social science subjects are giving students the skills they need for the future marketplace. These graduates’ flexible, adaptable skills make them extremely resilient in the face of downturns and well-equipped to adapt to the technological changes in the job market.

“School students who are considering what they may wish to go on and study at university should feel reassured by this evidence that they can study subjects that they love and go on to have great career prospects.” 

More information

For media information, contact:

Paul Jordan
Faculty Communications Manager (HSS)
email: p.jordan@qmul.ac.uk