Further education again: the decline of the liberal arts

The proportion of university undergraduates studying the liberal arts in the US has fallen by almost 50% since 1970. Business studies is the favourite; up and coming are statistics and data science.

The justification for studying the liberal arts – set out several times on this blog over the years – is that they teach people to problem solve, to communicate effectively, and to think for themselves.  The liberal arts should also prepare people for the increasing possibility that their chosen profession eventually disappears altogether. These reasons fall upon deaf ears, despite the fact that out of the 10 million jobs created in the United States since 2012, only 6% were in areas related to software, and information technology, and most were non-technical. What those in the liberal arts are well set up for are fast-growing areas like project management, market research, fundraising, and jobs where you have to think on your feet, work with ambiguity, write and speak well, and, most importantly, relate to and manage other people.

In my opinion, Business Studies as a first degree is a total waste of time, unless you are very lucky and are taught by someone who has had extensive business experience, has a sense of humour (the theory is boring), and who really understands and is good at people management (rare birds). If this latter is happily the case, then I’m surprised he or she isn’t “doing” rather than “teaching” the subject.

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