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Vice-chancellor's comments have stimulated debate on positive contribution of arts students in workplace

letter of the day: graduate skills

Published 03/06/2016

As a retired public servant and history graduate from Queen's University, I think it is unfortunate that the vice-chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, has questioned the value that history graduates bring to society (News, June 1).

He has since stepped back from his initial comment and that is welcomed. However, it has stimulated discussion on the value of non-STEM subjects and while, of course, we need doctors, scientists and engineers, we also need arts graduates with good written skills, ability to reason, analyse, make sound judgments and evidence-based decisions.

These are skills which history graduates bring to the workplace - regardless of whether the student has studied ancient, medieval or modern.

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, a former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and one of the most distinguished public servants in my lifetime, studied history at Oxford and the public and private sector workplace has been enriched by employees, at all levels, with skills nurtured and developed at third level academic institutions in arts subjects. It is also a fact that arts graduates are employed by accountancy and consultancy firms and have the flexibility to successfully cross over.

Clearly, it was a throwaway remark by Professor Johnston, but it has served a useful purpose in stimulating debate on the positive value that arts students bring to the workplace.


Crawfordsburn, Co Down

Belfast Telegraph

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