Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Attitudes towards University Degrees

You’ve just moved into your university halls, it’s your first term of your first year, and someone else living in your accommodation thinks getting to know you would be a great way to break the ice, so they ask you what’re you’re studying, you appreciate the pleasant gesture and reply with: “I’m studying [insert arts related degree here].”

“But you’re not studying a real degree.”

It seems it’s one of those inevitable responses it seems that will be said sooner or later, be it from friends or family.

According to film, video and photographic arts, fine arts, philosophy and religious studies are among the top 5 in the list of ‘The 10 Worst College Majors’, with humanities and liberal arts, social sciences, and law and public policy as the Jills that tumble shortly after the falling Jacks down the hill of academic hierarchy. With over an estimated half a million career options facing any student in the post-industrial age, it seems that debate between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ degrees is inevitable.

One stance is unavoidable: money. What will pay best? What work will give me the greatest amount of money for my labour? This swings the debate, perhaps unsurprisingly, towards more traditional areas of study as “what society rewards in economic terms has moved away from the softer majors,” says Anthony P. Carnevale. “It’s become about how much math you do.”

His standpoint is reinforced by articles such as ‘10 Worst College Degrees to Earn in 2015’ published by who ranked;

  1. Communications
  2. Psychology
  3. Theatre Arts
  4. Fashion Design


  1. Sociology

as pointless due to the lack of stable employment in such fields complimented by lower salary figures. The value of a degree was calculated analysing by high initial unemployment rates and low initial median earnings of full-time, full-year workers, suggesting that despite a thriving and sustained interest in the arts as well as humanities, that there is little demand for them in the contemporary age.

However, and perhaps thankfully, not everyone appears to agree. Job satisfaction as well as levels of employability appear to jump rapidly within arts related degrees to compete alongside courses like mathematical sciences, engineering, and business & administrative studies. The Telegraph placed education, law, languages, and philosophical studies among the top 12 degree subjects for getting a job – Business Insider UK, as well as The Huffington Post also appear to agree with this attitude, with Daniel R. Schwarz stating that; “[the arts and humanities] take us into imagined worlds created by different minds and enable us to understand how others live. We are what we read, the museums we visit and the performances we see and hear. They are as much us — part of our memories, our usness — as the culture we inherit and the life experiences we have.”

While it’s perhaps not hard to see some sort of emergent dichotomy between the employability of an individual and how well they can expect to be paid, it nonetheless doesn’t affect the institutionalisation of any given degree; the value of a degree can’t be wrapped up in its capital.  Whatever the chosen path of study, it will inevitably reflect a healthy dosage of enthusiasm, consideration, and eagerness of the individual studying it, along with a willingness to put time and effort into their course over the years they are attending university.