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Humanities degrees are becoming more of a degree formed around the walls of a library than of the lecture theatre. Whether this is the Templeman Library or the online version we access hungover from under our bed covers, humanities degrees are a very expensive library membership.
The degrees have an average amount of contact hours of around six hours in 2nd year and can be as little as three hours in 3rd year, barely enough to cover a singular school day in sixth form.
What are you supposed to do with all this ‘free’ time when you aren’t in the classroom?
The idea behind the lack of contact hours is that you are privately studying in between each lecture in preparation for both your seminar and assignments. But let’s face it, no one is going to spend their remaining week studying the whole time. The majority of people end up either going out drinking with friends or sat in bed watching TV waiting for the last week of term to roll around so that they can write a mediocre essay they should have started weeks ago.
The luxury of having two or three days off in the middle of the week means that students end up lacking the motivation to study and complete assignments. They push back their time spent in the library with false promises of ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ after having over-slept and not rolled out of bed until halfway through the afternoon.
It is not just the student’s work that suffers, but also their relationship with their peers. Due to the lack of contact hours in a humanities degree, students do not get the opportunity to get to know their peers as much as they would in other disciplines. A humanities degree almost becomes the anti-social course, as you end up spending more time completing work individually than you do in a seminar room with other students. Through increasing a humanities degree’s contact hours to up to one lecture a day it would mean that students would actually begin to build rapport with each other, rather than having to stare around at the unfamiliar faces that fill the seminar room once a week.
Lecturers say you are free to talk to them face-to-face about any queries on assignments you may have in their office hours, but that is only one hour a week. If you really are struggling with an assignment, there does not appear to be a lot of help in or out of the classroom.
Students are only given 2-3 assignments a term for each module, which is normally formed of an essay or two and some wacky creative assignment task an academic has whacked out in a last-minute panic before term starts. Even if the thought process for these assignments can be seen, does anyone really want to pay £9,250 to rummage through their housemate’s bin in the form of an ‘excavation’? Humanities degrees are designed to shape one’s ability in essay research and writing. However only being asked to submit work in such small quantities hardly feels like it.
Perhaps if students were being given more work to complete during the term to compensate for the lack of contact hours a humanities degree would feel a bit more value for money. Even so, they are said to give you more transferable skills than a science or maths-based degree. As a consequence, it simply comes down to whether students have the self-motivation to complete the work with the few contact hours a humanities subject offers them. If not, they may be better off with a subject that has more contact hours as it gives them more structure and opportunity to speak to lecturers personally.