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The Humanities, Arts, and Education

Communication and Humanities Degrees

In a new release today, the Humanities Indicators reports on substantial declines in the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred in the field (marked by a 9.5% drop in the total number of humanities degrees conferred from 2012 to 2015). The decline would look slightly worse if not for a technical adjustment in the mix of disciplines counted as the humanities. The Indicators staff added areas of the communication discipline that fall within the humanities to the time series. As the figure below shows, even when the pre-professional areas of communication are excluded, the number of degrees awarded in that discipline increased substantially even as the other humanities disciplines have seen sharp declines in the number of undergraduate degrees.


Number of Humanities Bachelor’s Degree Completions, by Discipline, 1987–2015

With the change this year, the Indicators staff and Advisory Committee believe the data series now provides a more complete picture of the humanities enterprise. Trevor Parry-Giles (director of academic and professional affairs at the National Communication Association and a professor at the University of Maryland) explains the case for change.

June 4, 2017

Communication as Humanities, Humanities as Communication

posted By
Trevor Parry-GilesTrevor Parry-Giles is director of academic and professional affairs at the National Communication Association and a professor at the University of Maryland.

In November 1914, on an unseasonably warm Chicago day, 17 speech teachers voted to formally sever ties with the National Council of Teachers of English and form their own association, the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking (now the National Communication Association). In so doing, these teachers declared that the study and teaching of communication was distinct from other disciplines, deserving of its own institutional and intellectual legitimacy as a discipline within the context of American higher education. Communication is now firmly established as a course of both undergraduate and graduate study in colleges and universities across the United States and around the world. As our world and our society become increasingly communicative, students and their parents are, in ever growing numbers, finding communication an attractive major. They realize that, at its foundation, communication focuses on how people use messages to generate meanings within and across various contexts, and is the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry.   More... 

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