Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

The Shrinking Humanities Major

“Number of bachelor’s degrees awarded fell 8.7 percent between 2012 and 2014, study finds.

The humanities are losing undergraduate majors, and a new analysis from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences documents the trend.

The number of bachelor’s degrees conferred in what the academy considers core humanities disciplines (English language and literature, history, languages and literatures other than English, linguistics, classical studies, and philosophy) declined 8.7 percent from 2012 to 2014, falling to the smallest number of degrees conferred since 2003 — 106,869. Long-term declines in humanities majors (as a share of all undergraduates) have been well documented.

The data are part of the academy’s Humanities Indicators project, which seeks to provide current information on the disciplines.

As a percentage of all bachelor’s degrees, the core disciplines in the humanities disciplines fell in 2014 to their lowest recorded level, 6.1 percent, in all years going back to 1948, the period for which the academy has reliable numbers.”

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Languages do matter!


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