What use is an arts degree?

 

Sir, – It was most refreshing to read your arguments in favour of studying a degree in the arts (Education, February 5th). Students who are filling out a CAO form at 17 years of age are already under great pressure as they prepare for their examinations, and it is so very wrong to give them the impression that they also must make a definitive choice of career path at this early stage in their lives. Yes, if a BA in a humanities subject is the last qualification you ever plan to take, you have probably made a poor life choice; but as a gateway qualification to a specialised postgraduate degree, or to specific on-job training, it serves an admirable purpose in sharpening your mind and developing your faculties for critical thinking. – Yours, etc,

Dr MARTIN BRADY,

School of Classics,

University College Dublin,

Belfield,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Further to Peter McGuire’s article, many people are interested in and spend time learning arts subjects – literature, history, politics, philosophy, etc, – even if their careers lie elsewhere. If you had no financial or career imperative, you would most likely study one of these, as evidenced by the large numbers of gainfully employed and retired mature students who do arts degrees for pleasure alone. In addition, the time commitment is much less; between four and 16 hours a week (depending on the college, course and year), compared to between 25 and 40 hours for science or engineering. Technical students also have to write up lab notes in their own time, in addition to doing the same amount of independent study and assignment preparation expected of arts students. This gives arts students a very significant advantages in spending serious time on non-academic activities, such as sports, creative arts, paid employment, politics, charity work, etc. Of course, some students use this time sleeping late and socialising heavily, but who is to say they are wrong? After all, in a country where what you know often falls second best to who you know, the relationships built outside the lecture hall can often be much more beneficial to a career than anything learnt within. – Yours, etc,

JOHN THOMPSON,

Shamrock Street,

Phibsboro,

Dublin 7.