With budgets being cut left and right, and students worrying about their employment prospects after university, Liberal Arts degrees have come under siege. The question—or accusation—on people’s minds is whether the Liberal Arts are truly relevant to life post-graduation.
In recent years, budget cuts have been a serious concern for universities, including McGill in the past year. While a variety of faculties have seen resources cut, an emphasis on revenue generation means that arts disciplines often fall to the cutting board first. The stated reasons are simple; Arts students, courses, and faculty, don’t make as much money in research or carry as much prestige. New innovations and discoveries are more often the domain of the sciences—at least in terms of tangible progress. Humanities exist more in the realm of hypotheses that are harder to confirm and exploration of topics that often don’t create a profit in the ‘real’ world. For this reason, sciences seem like a better investment for the future.
Another challenge facing the humanities is a drop in interest among students. While there are many ways to look at this decline, an oft-cited reason is the poor economy. This line is the same every time: we’re in a serious recession, as we have been since 2008, and life will not be easy for students leaving the safety of the university cocoon. The joy of learning for the sake of understanding the world around us, it seems, is no longer the goal of university; it is soley an investment towards our future and job security. While on some level, university is too expensive to not be an investment, it has gotten to the point that many have dismissed the idea of learning for its own sake outright.
The perception that Arts degrees aren’t applicable to real-world jobs is false. While Liberal Arts students don’t often come out of university with a working knowledge of the Higgs boson, they do graduate with the ability to think critically and creatively, and to communicate their ideas in a clear and concise way. These skills help in the workforce for a variety of tasks and are something employers are looking for. They take a lifetime to teach, but are infinitely applicable, no matter the job.
Certainly Science degrees are lucrative, and a safer choice for employment. While one area of study isn’t better than the other, the Liberal Arts are—and always will be—relevant. They foster an appreciation of learning and provide the basic skills for broad careers. They can be risky in terms of employment, but they’re incredibly rewarding in terms of learning and appreciation of humanity.