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British Academy AHSS skills

Arts, humanities and social science graduates’ skills in demand

Published on: 27 November 2017

A new study has defined for the first time the skills graduates develop by studying arts, humanities and social science (AHSS) degrees.

Skills in demand from employers

Researchers from the British Academy identified the core skills as communication and collaboration; research and analysis; independence and adaptability.

The report found that these qualities are often the same as those in demand from employers.

The British Academy report The Right Skills: Celebrating skills in the arts, humanities and social sciences, also investigated the destinations of AHSS graduates, and found that their core skills equip them to work in a wide range of jobs, from web design to the civil service, teaching to financial services.

Strong reputation

Newcastle University has a strong reputation in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and has a number of established relationships with a range of organisations providing innovative ways for AHSS students to develop skills and professional practice alongside their studies.

One example of this is a long running collaboration between Northumbrian Water, Kielder Water and Forest Park Trust, Northumberland National Park Authority and the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape that has involved students working directly with local communities, clients, contractors to design and build projects, giving them practical insights and skills and allow for ‘real world’ experimentation with materials, performance and different modes of design practice.

The University also works to support its graduates through innovative partnerships, one example of which is the new artist-led, graduate development programme, The Collective Studio, a partnership with The NewBridge Project to bridge the gap between university, studio-based practice, the gallery and the workplace.

The initiative is based in The Newbridge Project's new building on Gateshead High Street where the Newbridge Project has transformed a former shop unit into a base for 20 artists, photographers, writers, musicians, architects, filmmakers and other creative professional graduates as they begin their careers. The Collective Studio programme aims to give them the skills to manage their creative practice.

Professor Julie Sanders, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Humanities and Social Sciences, Newcastle University, said: “As recognised by the British Academy report, AHSS graduates play a vital role in all areas of our economy, bringing a distinctive set of skills developed during their studies.  At Newcastle we are committed to supporting our graduates to reach their full potential and in this we are fortunate to work with a range of external partners who not only help us to identify the skills required, but who also actively collaborate with us, our students and graduates to ensure they are best placed to contribute and lead."

Skills for the 21st century

With the type of jobs likely to change in the future, flexible and adaptable graduates, many of whom have AHSS degrees, were highly valued by employers, even when their degree was unrelated to the business.

Chair of the British Academy project, Professor Sir Ian Diamond FBA FRSE FAcSS said: “The question every arts, humanities and social sciences student has heard at least once is: ‘what are you going to do with that?’ Today our research proves that these graduates have the potential to adapt to almost any career in an increasingly globalised and uncertain world.

 “Our research has defined for the first time the skills shared by arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) graduates, and looks at their careers in almost every sector of our economy, from the booming creative industries to financial services.

“The arts, humanities and social sciences are a strong choice for any prospective student – these subjects create well-rounded and adaptable graduates, equipped with the skills employers demand for the twenty-first century workplace.”

The skills identified by the British Academy report are:

  • Communication and collaboration
  • Communication
  • Working with others
  • Research and analysis
  • Designing research and collecting evidence
  • Analysing
  • Decision making
  • Attitudes and behaviours characterised by independence and adaptability
  • Problem solving



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