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January 23, 2007


Igor Belanov

Well, I am interested in culture and books, but also football- that's not arty-farty or fluffy, so should I put that in my CV? Oh, and some of the books I read are relating to wars, so that's very manly and shows great reserves of ruthlessness I never knew I had. So maybe I should include that as well.


Could it be that degrees signal certain skills, and that arts degrees only signal the most basic abilities to communicate and do work, while sciences also indicate the ability to handle and interpret data, so science graduates are simply more valuable for most things?

Igor Belanov

Do historians not handle and interpret data?


Another factor is the c word - class.

Historically speaking, and to a lesser extent still the case today, a degree on a CV signals to an employer "look at me, I'm a member of your class".

Frankly though I disagree that a science graduate automatically has good communication skills. If you want good communicators the subject you'd look for surely is english.


Two points about the study which I think should make us a wary of drawing too many conclusions from it:

1)It looks only at people who were born in 1970. It's probably safe to assume that most of them took their degrees in the early '90s, and it may be that the pay differences are a function of the time they took their degree not the degree they took. Perhaps social science graduates from 1992 have done better than arts graduates from 1992, but is that true of people who graduated in, say, 2002?

2) Pay in the financial sector is significantly higher than in other sectors of the economy. Assuming that in the past 20 years or so, the financial sector has tended to employ more science and social science graduates - in particular, economics graduates - than it has arts graduates (Chris, please correct me if I'm wrong about this based on your experience), then the disparity between what they are paid and what workers in the rest of the economy are paid should be reflected in the figures. So it wouldn't naturally follow that any social science/science degree would pay better: it might just be that maths and economics graduates got paid a lot more than graduates in all other fields, which distorts the figures.

(Come to think of it, presumably Spice Girls Studies and similar degrees are all 'Arts & Humanities' subjects, and exert (I guess) a downward pressure on graduate pay?)

It's interesting, because if I look around in my field (corporate law), which pays somewhat above the national average, arts and humanities graduates are over-represented as against science/social science grads. But maybe law is the exception that tests the rule?


"entry requirements for many such courses are as high as for sciences": no, they don't need A-level maths. Perhaps Arts graduates who had A-level maths would be broadcasting a strong signal that they are not intellectually fluffy.

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