Are humanities being undervalued?

In light of Sunderland University closing its politics, history and modern languages departments, Rebecca Johnson explores whether humanities are being swept aside

Rebecca Johnson
14th February 2020
Last month, Sunderland University announced plans to close its history, politics and modern languages department after a limited number of students applied for each. The history course received 14 applicants, history and politics had 15 students apply, whilst no one signed up for any modern languages.

This decision comes as Sunderland starts to shift to more “career-focused” course to offer potential applicants. John Mowbray, the Chairman of the university’s board of governors, stated that, “While recognising the value of the subjects the university is withdrawing from, the board of governors agreed that they do not fit with the curriculum principles of being career-focused and professions-facing.”

Speaking as a history student, I interpret Sunderland University’s statement as quite insulting to historians, implying that history, as well as politics and modern languages, do not offer any “career-focused” opportunities. Sunderland runs the risk of isolating potential applicants who may not be able to get the grades to study at other institutions, or from applicants who live in Sunderland, and are unable to move further away to study, from studying history, politics or modern languages. Furthermore, this decision seems to have been based on one poor set of application results

Humanities are incredibly important, now more than ever

To an extent, it’s understandable why Sunderland have done this. It’s important to offer “career-focused” options, such as the university’s new medicine course, especially in a more deprived area of the country. However, completely scrapping history, politics and modern languages is ostracizing a sector of applicants. These are incredibly important subjects, now more than ever. As well as being interesting, history allows one to explore the past and enables a student to gain a better understanding of the present. Not only that, but history equips a student with so many skills that can be applied to so many jobs. This is something that I’ve found incredibly beneficial in my history degree, and something that potential employers look for in the sector of work I wish to pursue.

Completely scrapping history, politics and modern languages seems like a rash decision from Sunderland University. It ostracizes potential applicants from a city with high deprivation rates and it ostracises those who may not have good enough grades to go elsewhere and pick up the skills that these degrees offer. Sunderland may want to introduce more “career-focused paths”, but this statement implies that these degrees aren’t as important as the courses they want to offer, which is quite demeaning

Featured Image: Geograph

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