By Pseudonym Pete 


Inspired by the recent Pelican article ‘Crimes Against Humanities’, I thought I, too, might write in to defend four years of my life spent studying a three-year arts degree.

Arts are often criticised as a one-way ticket to unemployment and seen by many to be something of a financial black hole.

A sure-fire way to ruin your future and piss-fart your way through university with nothing to show for it.

Study science these nay-sayers say, why not commerce the other crowers crow.

Bollocks, I respond.

Jobs are hard to come by no matter what you studied and, in my opinion, you need a lot of luck and no small amount of nepotism to seize one, sad to say.

Anyway, having studied Arts and Science at UWA and snatched a job from the jaws of joblessness, here’s my two cents: both Science and Arts were equally useful in getting a job.

But, as Max Kagi rightly points out in the article, employment is a limited lens through which to view education.

I’m aware that I am almost exclusively writing to Arts students here and perhaps one Commerce student who finds themselves lost, but – studying Arts is a privilege.

To be sure, humanities is a large and diverse field.

I’m not sure how well the benefits of studying English Lit will generalise to other humanities degrees but, all the same, here I go!


In Lit there was once a unit called Netflicks: Cinema and Long Form Television, and some people held this up as the clearest example of why my degree was a big stinky waste of time etc.

But having discussions about what Netflix means and why it’s important actually has value.

Engaging in tutorials requires you to build your own interpretations and reason them out.

Of course, you build an argument in plenty of other degrees but here it’s a little more personal.

Articulating why you thought certain parts of a text were good or bad is an exercise in understanding what you like and why that is – what do you value?

Understanding what you value is an exercise in understanding yourself and sure, this might sound artsy, but understanding yourself is nothing to sneeze at.

If you’ve watched the program or read the book, you will have an individual response that will be quite unlike anyone else’s in the room.

Unpacking and developing that unique response, putting together an argument to interpret and explain why you thought these thoughts helps you understand yourself just a little better.

These group discussions also build communication skills and critical thinking skills; but, most importantly, they help students understand their own interpretations.

This has value now but it’s also one of those skills that will be helpful going forward, for students to get a job and get a job they’re happy in.

All this is to say – there’s value in an arts degree.

By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is one of the oldest student publications in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you enjoy writing, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *