Humanities Degree Completions: An International Comparison
- In 2009, among the 24 OECD countries for which data were available, the United States ranked fifth in the proportion of humanities degrees conferred among all undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees (Indicator II-60a).
- The U.S. percentage of bachelor’s and advanced degrees conferred in the humanities (10.9%) was similar to Korea and Hungary, and almost seven percentage points lower than the leader in conferring humanities degrees, Germany, which bestowed 17.5% of its tertiary degrees in humanities disciplines.
* Includes degrees in Tertiary Type-A programs and advanced research programs. See “About the Data” for details.
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), OECD.Stat Extracts (online data analysis tool), http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. This information is gathered by the OECD from member countries on an annual basis via the “UOE” (UIS/OECD/EUROSTAT) data collection.
In order to arrive at meaningful comparisons among countries that have substantially different educational systems, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) uses the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCE), which was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the early 1970s to facilitate efforts to aggregate and present international education statistics. The ISCE makes possible the comparison of OECD countries in terms of the share of all “tertiary degrees” (U.S. bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are all considered tertiary degrees) that were awarded in the humanities.
The disciplines UNESCO includes within the humanities are: "religion and theology"; "foreign languages and cultures (living or ‘dead’ languages and their literatures, area studies)"; "native languages (current or vernacular language and its literature)"; and "other humanities (interpretation and translation, linguistics, comparative literature, history, archaeology, philosophy, ethics).”*
The percentages used here include graduates of Tertiary Type-A programs and advanced research programs. Tertiary Type-A programs, also known as 5A programs, are defined within the UNESCO’s ISCE framework as largely theory-based and designed to provide sufficient qualifications for entry to advanced research programs and professions with high skill requirements, such as medicine, dentistry, or architecture (please visit http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/international-standard-classification-of-education.aspx for the framework document). Tertiary Type-A programs include bachelor’s programs, as well as the master’s programs found in the United States and other predominantly English-speaking countries. Data are not available for Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, and Luxembourg.
* United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 1997” (Montreal: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2006), 42, http://www.uis.unesco.org/Library/Documents/isced97-en.pdf.