10 April 2008
Is an arts degree a waste of time?
Is the Renaissance scholar dead? That's the topic of a debate in yesterday's Guardian in which Professor Adrian Monk of London's City University argued that the last thing that Britain needed was more arts graduates:
Where will the advances that take us forward in this century come from? Will they emerge from study of the 19th-century novel, or being able to translate Hesiod, or from theology (I'm open to bets)? You know the answer, and yet we continue to subsidise 30% of our undergraduates to study these subjects in universities. Are we nuts?
Actually, no, not so long as graduate conversion courses still run. We are far from nuts.
A friend of mine read Physics at Christ Church, Oxford, and then decided that what he really fancied being was a barrister. So he trotted off, funnily enough to the City University, and did his GCC. Any number of others followed that path, first reading for an arts degree, then switching via a GCC to something else.
Probably a pretty extreme example comes from another friend of mine who did it all by himself with no formal training whatsoever. This fellow read Geography at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and now advises banks on their computer needs. He actually goes a bit further than that and installs the damned computers and gets them running.
The point is that if you have a decent degree from a decent, Russell Group, university, then your mind has been opened to all sorts of possibilities. Furthermore, you have proven that you can assess, analyse and weigh the value of evidence. Making the switch from arts to technology is relatively simple for a man like that.
I might add that society is also a damned sight more civilised.