February 26, 2010 – The humanities continue to play a core role in higher education and student interest is strong, but to meet the demand, four-year colleges and universities are increasingly relying on a part-time, untenured workforce. Those are among the findings from the Humanities Departmental Survey, conducted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) and a consortium of disciplinary associations. The survey, administered during the 2007-2008 academic year, includes data collected from English, foreign language, history, history of science, art history, linguistics, and religion departments at approximately 1,400 colleges and universities. It is the first comprehensive survey to provide general cross-disciplinary data on humanities departments.
The survey results provide a snapshot of U.S. humanities departments at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The survey covers a broad range of topics, including numbers of departments and faculty members, faculty distributions by discipline, courses taught, tenure activity, undergraduate majors and minors, and graduate students. The data provide new information about each of the disciplines; they also allow comparisons across disciplines. These data are especially important because the U.S. Department of Education has indefinitely suspended the only nationally representative survey providing information about humanities faculty (the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty).
Even though the humanities disciplines represent an essential core of the liberal arts curriculum, they have long been data deprived. The empirical data now available in the survey, along with the rich collection of information already found in the Humanities Indicators, begin to fill that gap and to establish baselines that will allow stakeholders to track trends in the future. The Academy hopes that the Humanities Departmental Survey can be expanded to include additional disciplines and updated regularly, producing trend data that could be incorporated into the Humanities Indicators.
The Humanities Indicators include data covering humanities education from primary school through the graduate level; the humanities workforce; humanities funding and research; and the humanities in civic life. Modeled after the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators, the Humanities Indicators serve as a resource to help scholars, policymakers, and the public assess the current state of the humanities. Launched in January 2009, the Academy continues to update and expand the Humanities Indicators.
The results are available on the Academy’s Humanities Resource Center Online at www.HumanitiesIndicators.org.