Benefits of studying humanities and social sciences in the UK

“The fundamental concept in Social Science is Power, in the same sense in which Energy in the fundamental concept in Physics.” – Bertrand Russell

The rising popularity of science- and technology-related subjects has been well-reported in recent years. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programmes attract millions of undergraduate students each year – and for a very good reason. Salaries are good, demand is high, and these subjects can be a great fit for those who have a clear career path in mind.

This, however, does not provide the complete picture. Not every student wants to spend their university experience crunching code or figuring out mathematical problems. Some don’t even have their mind set on a clear career path from the word go…

For those who want to keep their options open and have a deep interest in how the world works, a degree in the arts, humanities or the social sciences could turn out to be a much more rewarding – and enjoyable – option.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits:


Pursuing a degree in the humanities and social sciences offers flexibility on a number of levels. First, these are really broad areas offering countless study options. Many faculties offer dozens of programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level, often combining disciplines and/or language delivery.

degree in humanities university of bathImage via Shutterstock

Second, humanities and social sciences recognise that the ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past for most people. Many programmes are designed to give students a broad grounding and a wider knowledge of the world, allowing them to seek employment or specialise further long after graduation. With many students entering university in their teens, this flexibility is crucial as they find their way in the world.

Invaluable skills

An education in the humanities and social sciences provides graduates with essential skills that stay with them throughout their personal and professional lives. Students develop critical thinking, analytical, logic and presentation skills throughout the course of their degrees.

Humanities and social sciences graduates have a deep understanding of how society works, and there is a widely held view that no organisation of any kind can effectively function without them. As STEM graduates build the latest technologies, it is those who have studied the humanities that apply these technologies to the world around us.

“A degree in the liberal arts, with its focus on the broad spectrum of human endeavour, has never been needed more. It is one of society’s best investments,” wrote a university President last year.

Rewarding careers

The fact that skills gained by humanities and social science students can be applied to all facets of life makes for extremely rewarding careers. Graduates can be educators, policy makers, international development professionals and journalists, all over the span of a couple of decades.

One political sciences graduate, Barack Obama, worked in the business sector, community development and law before entering politics and going on to become the President of the United States. At the age of 55 and as his second term ends, his career is far from over.

Reward in careerImage via Shutterstock

Graduate outcomes

While age-old old clichés about arts graduates ending up working in soft jobs are now a thing of the past, many people interested in studying the humanities worry about employment prospects. They shouldn’t.

Thanks to the invaluable skills discussed above, humanities and social sciences graduates are highly valued by employers. Countless surveys have shown that most employers value written and oral communication, problem solving and critical thinking over technical expertise.

A 2013 report by the Campaign for Social Science found that 84.2 percent of social science graduates and 78.7 percent of arts-humanities graduates in the UK remained in employment 3.5 years after graduating. STEM graduates lagged behind both at 77.8 percent.

Further, recent studies have revealed that salaries for humanities and social science graduates are much more competitive than many are led to believe. While starting salaries tend to be lower for humanities graduates, the gap narrows dramatically as their careers progress. By the age of 35-40, they will often be earning the same or even more than their STEM counterparts.

Here are five UK universities that that combine an excellent education in the humanities and social sciences with great graduate outcomes:


Image courtesy of the University of Bath

Located in one of southwest England’s most picturesque cities, the University of Bath is home to 15,000 students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Granted university status in 1966, it has already established a reputation for excellence in higher education.

Bath has been ranked seventh in the UK for graduate prospects in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016, and regularly gains accolades for both its teaching and research in humanities and social sciences.

The faculty offers more than 20 undergraduate programmes, including several that are highly ranked, covering diverse fields such as Social Sciences, Psychology, Health, Politics, Education, Economics, and more. Meanwhile, the faculty’s Graduate School offers a range of Taught Masters, MRes Programmes, and Research Degrees including specialist subjects such as interpreting and translation.

The Faculty also works closely with the Institute for Policy Research which bridges the worlds of research, policy and professional practice.


Established in 1965, the University of Warwick is home to almost 25,000 students with almost 10,000 of those hailing from overseas. The university’s Faculty of Arts has been ranked in the Top 50 in the world in the QS University Rankings.

The faculty is home to a number of departments and research centres spanning the Arts and Humanities subject areas. World-class teaching and research staff develop students’ critical thinking skills as they explore the arts and humanities in-depth.

Warwick also has a dedicated Faculty of Social Sciences, where its departments and research centres cover everything from global governance to public health.

Image courtesy of the University of Warwick


Set in two distinct locations in the northeast of England, Durham University is home to a diverse population of 15,000 students, including 3,000 international students.

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities is home to seven departments and schools, covering everything from ancient history and philosophy to modern languages and English literature. The Faculty of Social Sciences & Health, meanwhile, offers programmes across 10 schools and departments and is highly-regarded for its pioneering research projects.

Graduates from both faculties are instilled with excellent critical thinking and problem solving skills, making them highly sought after by employers. Durham University was ranked eighth in the U.K. for graduate prospects in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.


University of Edinburgh lecture hallImage courtesy of the University of Edinburgh

Founded in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is consistently ranked as one of the U.K.’s leading universities and the best in Scotland.

Located in Scotland’s beautiful historic capital, the university is ranked 20th in the U.K. for arts and humanities by QS University Rankings thanks to its outstanding College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences.

With more than 300 undergraduate and 200 taught postgraduate programmes, and more than 16,000 students, this is one of the biggest colleges of its kind in the world. Programme offerings run the gamut of the arts, humanities and social sciences, offering students endless career opportunities.


Tracing its origins back to 1798, the University of Nottingham is ranked among the 30 best universities in the U.K. and the top one percent in the world.

It has been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education ‘University of the Year’ in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and again in 2016. Social Sciences is the largest and one of the most diverse faculties on campus, offering a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, with a strong focus on the study of contemporary China.

For those who lean towards the humanities, Nottingham’s Faculty of Arts offers compelling programmes covering culture, languages, area studies, English, and more.

*Some of the institutions participating in this story are partners of Study International

Feature image courtesy of the University of Bath

Liked this? Then you’ll love these…

Changing the world through the humanities

5 Reasons You Need a Degree in the Humanities