The State of the Humanities: Higher Education 2015


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Humanities Indicators

The past year was marked by considerable debate about the health of the humanities in higher education. The discussion focused on the number of students earning degrees in the humanities and tended to prioritize the economic value of the degrees over the broader social value of the skills and knowledge imparted by the humanities disciplines. This report provides a more complete—and balanced—portrait of the field. In certain areas—such as funding for academic research and production of new knowledge—the humanities have recently shown signs of growth. At the same time, the number and shares of students earning humanities degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels decreased, reinforcing recent narratives of decline.

Drawing on information gathered for the Academy’s Humanities Indicators and its Departmental Survey (administered in 2008 and 2013), this report highlights a variety of measures of the health of the humanities in higher education—numbers of departments, students, and faculty, as well as data on digital engagement, research spending, and the publication of new academic books in the field—and supplies the most current data available in early 2015.

The Humanities Indicators were first published online in 2009, and now serve as a nationally recognized resource for information on the state of the humanities. The Indicators website offers information on 103 topics and includes over 500 graphs and data tables detailing the state of the humanities in schools, higher education, and the workforce; levels of support for research and other key activities; and the role of the humanities in the day-to-day life of the nation. The Indicators use data that meet the highest standards of social scientific rigor, and rely heavily on the products of the U.S. federal statistical system.

Each measure included in this publication was posted within the past year to the Humanities Indicators website ( Please visit the website for related metrics, important information regarding data and methodology, and downloadable tables containing the exact numerical values underlying the graphs presented here.