A report has suggested that pupils studying for A-Levels should be required to study maths as well as a humanities subject and a foreign language in order to combat a decline in humanities enrolments at university level.
Dr Gabriel Roberts, author of the the Higher Education Policy Institute report and English teacher at a London secondary school, stated that requiring maths as an A-Level would enhance the numerical abilities of humanities graduates and therefore strengthen their employment prospects.
Dr Roberts also believes that the number of humanities students may actually rise if the study of a humanities subject was made compulsory.
In the report, he stated: “Requiring pupils to continue a foreign language until the end of school might stem the decline in applicants for Modern Languages courses at university and lessen the social exclusivity of Classics and Modern Languages courses at leading universities.”
He also spoke of how making the study of foreign languages mandatory could halt the long-term shortage of linguistic skills that is identified by employers. He described it as a move that would benefit students following the “loss of international links likely to result from Brexit.”
The report then goes into detail about the hurdles humanities degrees are facing, as both enrolment and graduate employment decline.
It details that humanities have experienced a long-term fall in relative size in UK universities. Between 1961/62 and 2019/20, the proportion of UK students studying humanities fell from around 28 per cent to around eight per cent.
Dr Roberts speculated that the employment prospects of humanitarian graduates are “weaker” than in other areas, but he then added that the “picture is mixed.”
He continued: “There’s a strong case for broadening post-16 education in the UK. A-levels are strikingly narrow by international standards, and the success of the International Baccalaureate and the Extended Project Qualification shows pupils can handle greater breadth than A-levels offer.
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“The growing popularity of interdisciplinary degrees should also tell us something about the kind of education that many young people want. There is a strong case for change.”
Speaking of the report, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, Nick Hillman, pointed out that there are distinct challenges surrounding humanities but that the issue is “more nuanced, more interesting and more positive” than possibly perceived, when you consider teaching, course design or research.
Nick Hillman concluded: “Moreover, the lively current debates on issues like statues and decolonising the curriculum prove that most people know we can only fully understand our society when the humanities thrive.”