Sad Statistics

In the last 40 years, the number of students majoring in the humanities in the US has declined by more than half, according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As the figures below indicate, the popularity of the following subjects among undergraduates has significantly decreased from 1970/71–2003/04 :

English: from 7.6 per cent of the majors to 3.9 per cent

Foreign languages and literatures: from 2.5 per cent to 1.3 per cent

History: from 18.5 per cent to 10.7 per cent


Academy of Arts and Sciences (USA): Report on the State and the Future of the Humanities

On June 19, 2013, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences published its report “The Heart of the Matter” on the state and value of the humanities and social sciences. The “Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences,” as it is called, was formed two years ago in response to Congress’s request to know how “to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education.”

The report arrives at a moment when others are sounding the alarm. In a report issued last week, Harvard University said that humanities majors there had fallen to 20 percent in 2012 from 36 percent in 1954 — a grim figure until you consider that, nationwide, just 7 percent of bachelor’s degrees were awarded in the humanities in 2010, down from 14 percent in 1966.

 The report states that “there is no reason liberal arts education cannot flourish in a new environment using new tools. The future will still need the human skills that the liberal arts promote, and perhaps will need them more than ever: skills in communication, interpretation, linking and synthesizing domains of knowledge, and imbuing facts with meaning and value”.

The central message is  that thriving long-term in the job market depends on developing “qualities of mind: inquisitiveness, perceptiveness, the ability to put a received idea to a new purpose, and the ability to share and build ideas with a diverse world of others.”

Read more:

New Directions in the Humanities: International conference in Budapest, June 19 – 21.

Our Centre for Humanities Innovation team will travel to Budapest this week to participate in the COLLOQUIUM:

New Paradigms in the Humanities and the Transformation of the Literary

Assessments of how new relationships between humanities disciplines, and indeed a new humanities, can be forged on the basis of a new concept of the literary will be discussed here.

The Colloquium will include the introduction on the Centre’s activities by Centre’s director Prof. Mikhail Epstein, as well as brief presentations on the tasks and the future of the humanities followed by an open discussion.

Gerald Moore. The Third Culture Humanities Network: Theses for a Provisional Manifesto

Caitríona Ní Dhúill. Technologies of Self–Inscription

Nick Roberts. Is there a single author in this room?

Alastair Renfrew. The Transformations of the Literary

Mikhail Epstein. The Transformative Humanities: What, How and Why to Transform?

June 19, 13.05 – 14.45. Room 7.

See details:

Does academia suppress creativity?

“Creativity enhances life. It enables the great thinkers, artists, and leaders of our world to continually push forward new concepts, new forms of expression and new ways to improve every facet of our existence. <…> Unfortunately, in the academic world—where much of today’s scientific innovation takes place—researchers are encouraged to maintain the status quo and not “rock the boat.” This mentality is pervasive, affecting all aspects of scientific research from idea generation to funding to the training of the next generation of scientists”.

Fred Southwick wrote this a year ago in “The Scientist“. Even stronger these bitter observations apply to the state of the academic humanities: while dealing with the most creative human endeavors (arts, literature, language, philosophy), they are even less creative, experimental and transformative in their methods than sciences. Why?

Southwick explains the prevalence of the status quo in sciences by the conservative academic leadership and research funding. Are these reasons sufficient to explain the stagnation in the humanities? Or should we address much deeper methodological issues? Why are the humanities, even in contrast to sciences and scientific technologies,  so obsessed with the past and so indifferent to the future, to the human potential?

Mikhail Epstein