News ID: 322604
Published: 0341 GMT June 27, 2022

UK university drops English literature course ‘because graduates struggle to get highly paid jobs’

UK university drops English literature course ‘because graduates struggle to get highly paid jobs’

A university in the UK suspended its English literature course, after a government crackdown on perceived "low value" degrees.

Sheffield Hallam University said that the core humanities subject is among the courses that will be suspended for the 2023/24 academic year, but did not clarify the reason behind the decision, or say how long the suspension would last.

Mary Peace, an English literature lecturer at the university, told The Telegraph that staff were informed of the decision five minutes before a departmental away day.

She said that she believes the rationale behind the decision was “largely economic”, and suggested that the decision was made over a poor job return for graduates amid expectations of students being in a “highly-skilled” job within six months.

Universities are facing a crackdown on so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees as the watchdog threatens to withdraw student loan funding from what are perceived to be low-quality courses.

Vice-chancellors will be warned by the Office for Students (OfS) that they risk being hit with sanctions – including financial penalties – if their degrees fail to deliver for students.

Degrees with high drop-out rates and low rates of graduate employment will be targeted by the OfS for scrutiny.

Peace said that she was told the university would instead offer an “English Studies” degree, comprising a mix of literature, creative writing and language, but she said that the decision appears to display “a very short-sighted understanding of what is valuable in a society”.

However, in suspending its English literature degree course it has become one of the first UK universities to abandon the core subject.

In 2021, the University of Cumbria also suspended its undergraduate English literature degree, owing to “low student demand”.

Last year saw applications to study English at university fall by more than a third from 2012, according to the admissions service UCAS.

The number of students choosing to take an English literature A-Level has also declined in recent years, with Ofqual’s data showing that 32,910 students enrolled in the subject in 2022, compared with 36,135 in 2021.

However, academics and students expressed dismay over Sheffield Hallam's decision to suspend the subject.


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