The Call of the Humanities
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The Call of the Humanities

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  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Insights & Information
  • Published on 18 Mar 2020

The emergence of Humanities as an attractive choice of major for study abroad. 

In the context of 21st-century jobs, Liberal Arts have become especially relevant as all new-age jobs related to climate change, design of human-machine ecosystems, global businesses and transitions are rooted in an appreciation of connections across a variety of subjects.


Which are the most sought after universities in the world? 

The first names that come to mind are Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, and then some more. All of them take great pride in being ‘liberal arts’ universities that have a focus on holistic and  multidisciplinary learning. Even the likes of MIT and Stanford, mostly known for their technical and business education, have created a strong arsenal of liberal arts programs. 

A look at their admission statistics reveals an interesting picture. Even for the most technical engineering programs, and especially alongside the most rigorous and sought after ones, there is a prominent focus on non-technical skills - such as leadership, participation in community activities, commitment to a cause, and more importantly, interest in liberal-arts subjects. In fact, some schools, like MIT, insist that of the two teacher recommendations that a student submits, one must be from a humanities teacher.

It has long been established that liberal arts education is the pinnacle of any educational endeavor. A grounding in humanities implies readiness for more human-related matters. No wonder then, that almost all the top universities of the world give such a strong emphasis to humanities. More so, in the context of the 4th industrial revolution and displacement of jobs induced by machines taking over repetitive tasks, there is a strong resurgence of humanities. 


Humanities has clearly become relevant in two contexts for education abroad

  1. As additional subjects, along with core technical, STEM-based learning:  The most popular programs in the most prestigious universities are multi-disciplinary ones. Even if a student pursues a purely technical major like Software or Engineering, he ends up taking a liberal-art minor or major, such as sociology. More than 90% (that’s a huge number!) of students who graduated in 2019 (of the top 50 universities in the US) had some grounding in liberal arts subjects with at least 50% having done a minor or a major in at least one such subject. 
  2. Stand-alone majors - Business majors have been popular for a long time. However, stand-alone humanities subjects such as Psychology, Design, Political Science, Economics, Literature, and Philosophy have gained traction over the last few years. Of all the students that work with us, close to 50% choose and work with non-technical majors. Compared to 5 years ago, this number was a measly 10-15%!


Why and wherefore the Arts

The moot question is why.  To my mind, the answer is fairly simple and in many ways recognized in our traditional education ecosystem. 

  • Firstly, studying humanities subjects inculcates skills like critical thinking, creativity, and complex problem-solving. In the context of 21st-century jobs, this becomes especially relevant as new-age jobs are related to climate change, design of human-machine ecosystems, global businesses, and transitions. 
  • These are all rooted in an appreciation of connections across a variety of subjects - thus underlining the importance, again, of a multidisciplinary approach
  • Additionally, the humanities foster a capability to identify a unique underlying theme across these: being able to identify the very leitmotif, or the central point across mushrooming puzzles

While such jobs that can appreciate this bent have not really taken off in India, an analysis of new job creation in the US and Western Europe points increasingly to the importance of liberal arts education in the emerging job market.


This also implies that, as students, it is important for us to not follow a straight ‘all-science’ path to success. That is no longer valid! STEM is passé; it is also now recognized as STEAM, ‘A’ being Arts. The writing is on the wall - if we have to succeed in the jobs of the future, we need to broad-base our education and the best way to do it is through immersion in liberal-arts subjects.



Further Reading

Jobs of 2025

The Speed of Change

Multi-disciplinary learning

Emerging Inter-Disciplinary Domains