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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

University Applications Drop in English Studies

Friday, February 03, 2012

A few months back, I published figures that I had extracted from the Higher Education Statistics Agency recording the number of university applicants choosing to study English. My headline finding was that:
From 2008-2009 to 2009-2010, the total number of undergraduates increased by 3%. In that period, the number of undergraduates studying languages also increased by 3%, whilst the number of undergraduates studying English increased by 4%. Thus English looks to be doing slightly better than most of the comparable language subjects. However, it is clearly doing significantly worse than subjects like maths (9% increase) and sister subjects like communications (7% increase).
Official figures published today by UCAS now report on the overall drop in university applications for the year ahead, when higher tuition fees will come into  force. The total number of applicants from the UK has dropped by 8.7%. As has been much predicted, arts subjects saw the biggest declines in numbers. Unfortunately, the current data is not as granular as the HESA information, as it lumps together different subjects. However, the "European Languages, Literature and Related" in which English is bundled suffered an 11.2% drop in applicants.

By contrast, Mathematical Sciences, which I used as a comparator subject in my earlier post, saw a 2.8% drop this year.

This seems to be roughly in line with my earlier predictions. In previous years, when university funding was much rosier, English applications increased 4% whilst maths increased 9%, a difference of 5%. This year, "European Languages, Literature and Related" applications dropped by 11.2% whilst "Mathematical Sciences" dropped 2.8%, a difference of 8.4%. My suspicion is that much of the comparative drop in Languages will be in a more abstract subjects, such as media studies. Probably the core subject of English Literature will better withstand any fall. We will know better when the full HESA data is published, discriminating by individual subjects. Nevertheless, it is absolutely clear that against the sciences, the arts are going to suffer a comparative fall in just the same way as relatively speaking they lagged behind during the years of growth in university numbers.

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Posted by Alistair at 9:40 am


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