New campaign shows creative and economic value of English degrees

Published: 26 March 2024 at 15:37

Pile of books with stars coming out the topmost pages with title "#EnglishCreates"

#EnglishCreates explains how studying English can help you make a difference in the world

On 22 March 2024, leading academics and high-profile graduates of English launched a new campaign at their national conference to highlight the value of studying English.

The #EnglishCreates campaign, led by University English in association with the English Association, shows how young people can make a difference in the world with an English degree, and futureproof their skills for life, work, and social change. Key points include:

  • English creates crucial skills for employment and social change in communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. Together, these skills are described as Storycraft, and are highly valued by business and social leaders.
  • English is a key contributor to the creative industries, the fastest growing part of the UK economy.
  • Arts and Humanities graduates have the same employment rate as science graduates.
  • Average graduate starting salaries are up to £23,000, comparable with Psychology, Law, Business Studies and Chemistry.
  • English graduates enjoy the joint fourth highest annual average wage growth, at 6.2%, higher than graduates of Physics (5.9%), Business (5.8%) and psychology (5.6%)

The #EnglishCreates campaign is supported by successful English graduates, including comedian David Baddiel, poet and novelist Patience Agbabi, writers Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson, and children’s author Francesca Simon.

David Baddiel said: “I loved my English degree. I loved getting to read books, and then listen to clever people talk about books, and then writing about books, for a degree. It was the most intellectually stimulating way to spend my time at university, plus it opened me up to understanding the world in ways that have stayed with me for life. Plus it may - who knows - have helped me become a writer.”

Patience Agbabi said: “Studying English Language and Literature, especially pre-19th century texts and poetry, enabled me to explore and extol the sonic properties of language, the dynamic between orality and literature. I became a sought-after international spoken word poet enjoying numerous invitations through bodies including The British Council in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the USA. I have lectured in Creative Writing and have published four poetry collections and four novels – a time-travel tetralogy for children.”

Jeanette Winterson said: “The workings of the human heart, the human mind, the human spirit, are best understood through the arts. Without the Arts and Humanities we do not know ourselves, only our achievements. Without the Humanities we cannot read the past - how did we get here? Without the Arts, we risk a future where humans look in a mirror without a reflection.”

Ali Smith said: “Studying for an English degree is one of the best ways there is to learn to read the world.”

Francesca Simon said: “Apart from the joy of reading widely, I learned to analyse, to search out meaning, to think critically, to write confidently. Reading great books from the past, from Anglo-Saxon poetry and Beowulf through Chaucer and Mrs Gaskill and Trollope, gave me a feel for history, a sense of time, and an understanding of how cultures evolve and change. Studying English also helped me discover my own style of writing, grounded in an understanding of rhythm and sound and of course, alliteration.”

English graduates and supporters are encouraged to share their own stories on social media channels using #EnglishCreates.

Professor Gail Marshall, chair of University English and Professor of English Literature at the University of Reading, said: “English is a hugely enjoyable and rewarding subject to study, and has a profound impact across our society.

“An English degree creates value of many kinds, helps employability, and equips graduates with life-long skills to respond meaningfully to challenges like the environmental crisis and technological change.

“We would lose so much if universities had to close English departments, particularly in parts of the UK where universities play a major role in the economic, cultural, and artistic landscape.”

The #EnglishCreates campaign will culminate in a week of national events from 3-7 June 2024. Visit the EnglishCreates website for more information.