Graduate education in the humanities is shrinking, according to a new report issued today by the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Master’s degrees in the humanities, of which 16,057 were awarded in 1988, rose to 32,584 in 2012, the year they peaked. In 2020, they fell to 26,566, the report said. The number of doctoral degrees awarded also rose and fell during that time. There were 3,110 doctoral degrees in the humanities in 1998. The number rose steadily to 6,010 in 2015 but fell to 5,483 in 2020.
To some critics, this is a natural flow, as there are fewer jobs (especially in higher education) for Ph.D.s in the humanities. To others, the numbers reflect the tragedy of the academic job market failing to keep up with student and faculty demand.
The same years saw a decline in the share of all degrees earned in the humanities. In 1998, 9 percent of master’s degrees were awarded in the humanities. That rose to 11 percent but then fell to 7 percent by 2020. Humanities Ph.D.s made up 4 percent of all Ph.D.s in 1998. The figure grew to 5 percent before falling to 3 percent.
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