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Social Science graduates more likely to be in a job than science graduates

Updated Sunday, 9th February 2014

Now there is a headline you don't read too often. Dick Skellington explains.

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A scientist gets a surprise in a cartoon about lab work - he's asked to walk some dogs Creative commons image Icon Catherine Pain under Creative-Commons license Social Sciences a good grounding for useful employment? That's a statement that flies against the myth of social science as a pointless exercise ending in unemployment or a job working in a coffee shop.

The latest research by the Campaign for Social Science (CSS) indeed shows that social science graduates seem more employable today than science graduates. Surely CSS have a vested interest, I hear you say, and you are right. But their findings demonstrate that the stereotype of the social science degree being a quick way to the dole queue or a McJob is pleasingly false.

As a graduate of the first ever social science degree in Britain in 1972 (at the now defunct Enfield College of Technology) I have to admit to a vested interest too. I have long maintained that a social science degree is a solid grounding for a career in a range of services, public and private, and most important of all, best prepares the student for life in the real world. A cynic might say that you are best prepared for unemployment if you have studied it, but my claim is a sincere one. After all I spent 38 years working for the Open University before retirement and as readers of this blog in the last 3 and a bit years can testify, I find it difficult to give up the day job.

The CSS findings come at a time when some higher education institutions have begun cutting social sciences from their curricula following the George Osborne lust for cuts (sometimes, I might argue, at the expense of long term social cost implications). Still, as George always keeps reminding us, we are all in this together. And I think social sciences shows each of us why society is more important than the individual. George, whatever you say about him, understands this fundamental truth. 

So amid a rush to cut degrees in sociology, history, anthropology, literary theory, economics (strange in the present circumstances) come findings which reveal that Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove’s ‘third rate higher education institutions’, you know the ones he means, those offering ‘social science degrees of questionable value’, well, by Gove, they seem to be producing employable graduates in greater numbers than science, mathematics and other fields of study. Who’d have thought, eh? It is a crying shame that Michael Gove, our Secretary of State for Education, currently taking flack for more philistine impositions upon our education provision, did not himself have a grounding in social science. Maybe he would then understand the folly of forcing 4-year-old kids to suffer tests, or trying to rewrite the First World War as some kind of epic movie in which death and sacrifice are always justified, and to question why is to be ridiculed.

The CSS study found that 84.2 per cent of social science graduates were in a job three and a half years after leaving higher education, compared with 78.7 per cent of students who took arts and humanities, and 77.8 per cent who studied science, technology, engineering and mathematics .

So society matters after all, doesn’t it!

This blog post is part of Society Matters. The blog seeks to inform, stimulate and challenge our understanding of this changing world and of our humbling role within it. Find out more about the blog and the team.
Want to know more about studying social sciences with The Open University? Visit the Social Sciences faculty site.

Please note: The opinions expressed in Society Matters posts are those of the individual authors, and do not represent the views of The Open University.





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