The Humanities vs The Rest

It is quite reasonable to demand value for money right? This post was inspired by another that I read which was describing why humanities students are silly to complain that they do not have as much contact hours during their degree as other subjects. Well, they have every right to complain I say.

However, perhaps they are phrasing their complaints wrong. It is the nature of humanities subjects that they require less teaching hours than others. When I went to my university open day, the professor admitted as much and it isn’t some great secret or controversy, it is merely how the subjects are. As there is more writing involved which requires personal effort, it has to be something students go away and do themselves. That is understandable.

Where Humanities students have a point though, is the cost of their degree. In the UK, every degree in nearly every University costs £9,000 a year. I understand that in countries like America it can be even more. Leaving aside the general absurd cost of education for a moment, I would like to focus on the differences between subjects which require less contact hours and those which do not.

Basic economics dictates that surely the cost of a degree should depend on how much it costs to supply it. Therefore, if subjects which have more contact hours and thus cost more due to the expense of staff’s wages, then they should be more expensive than those which do not. It is even claimed by some that a degree in medicine costs the university more than the current £9,000 a year whereas an English degree costs far less so this means students should see this difference in their tuition fees. This is what the UK government were hoping would happen when they raised the maximum threshold for tuition fees but of course, in the spirit of making the most money, universities shot the price of all their degrees right up to the limit.

Yes, changing the price of degrees according to how much it costs to supply it may have negative consequences such as people picking the cheapest degrees merely to gain one but I think it is more likely that it will have a positive effect as people are mostly passionate about what they would like to do in the future and so if it costs more or costs less, that would not be a strong determining factor in their decision about which degree to choose.

The positive impact it would have would be firstly that humanities students would stop complaining -well we are a loud bunch so there is no guarantee but it is likely-and that the system would take one small step to becoming a bit more fair.

Of course, to become totally fair, tuition fees should have remained at £3,000 a year or be completely demolished but I am not going to discuss that today.

A Worried Student

2 thoughts on “The Humanities vs The Rest

  1. It’s really hard to know exactly how much money each degree costs and if universities actually make a profit on particular degrees. For example, Chemistry or Engineering require lots of lab equipment, which is very expensive but English Literature doesn’t.

    I agree with what you say about humanities apparently subsidising sciences. But teaching isn’t the only income for universities, research is a big part of it. And science usually brings much more money in terms of public and private grants (which then could subsidise humanities when that money tickles down to other departments). It’s really hard to know.

    I think transparency is always positive and knowing how tuition fees are spent certainly would help the debate.

    Very good post!


    • Thank you 🙂
      Yes transparency would definitely help as if information like this is unknown, it leads people to think the worst.
      Research does also cost but I think that process perhaps needs to be a bit formalised and again, transparent as I met a professor once who said she has no time to research so then what is happening?

      Liked by 1 person

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