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Education Plus

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Advantage humanities

MEERA SRINIVASAN

Students could find in humanities a silver lining in these times of recruitment slowdown, and IIT-M’s programme offers a range of promising options.

Photo: M. Vedhan

STUDYING SOCIETY: The IIT humanities course has a strong development focus. Students of the programme are seen on campus.

This, perhaps, may be the right time to look at the humanities stream in higher education with a fresh perspective. With several other streams conventionally perceived to guarantee jobs or enviable remuneration losing lustre, humanities could be an interesting option for students who are willing to explore a different path.

When a leading technical institution such as the Indian Institute of Technology - Madras decided to offer a five-year, integrated, master’s programme through its Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (DHSS) in 2006, it seemed to validate the scope of humanities. The course offers a host of subjects that students could study according to their interest and ability. The DHSS also has research scholars pursuing their Ph.D.

According to the Head of the Department, V.R. Muraleedharan, the first two years of the programme serve as a foundation that exposes students to subjects ranging from philosophy and English to economics, life sciences and history. The promising mix of subjects seeks to prepare students for their latter part of the course, where they could specialise in economics, development studies or English.

The DHSS, which is in the process of increasing its faculty strength, gives students a considerable amount of flexibility. In the course of these five years, students also get to pursue electives. “The M.A. students have a distinct advantage. The student group is heterogeneous and interaction among members is bound to be vibrant. Also, our faculty has a diverse background, both individually and collectively,” says Prof. Muraleedharan.

Sudhir Chella Rajan, professor of Political Theory and the Environment, points to the effective teacher-student ratio that is ensured in every batch. “The very inter-disciplinary approach of this course is its main strength. Students also take up small projects as part of field work,” he adds.

Why humanities?

Humanities as an academic discipline does not limit students’ choice to a few predictable options. Whether it is about pursuing development studies to later branch out into social work for NGOs or companies with an active CSR wing or study economics to hold positions such as financial analysts, or take up environmental studies, students with a background in humanities certainly have an edge.

“Take the media, for instance. There are so many opportunities in the media now and those specialising in specific streams in humanities will be sought after,” Prof. Muraleedharan adds.

With most institutions, including top-notch schools, facing the challenge of finding good faculty, a section of humanities students interested in taking up academics could be an asset to institutions looking for dynamic professionals as part of their faculty. “Even if we get 10 per cent of our students back into academics, it will be significant.”

Job prospects

The DHSS has a placement cell that networks with prospective recruiters. Students have also been speaking to companies and organisations for internships. With the first batch of students yet to pass out, the awareness about such a course offered by a coveted national institute is not too high. However, with more and more students of the Department venturing out during internships and summer projects, there is a buzz being created about these students, who are equipped to fit into several positions with ease.

Aadya Singh, now in her third year, feels the course offers an exotic combination of subjects. “For some of the courses, we sit in class with our engineering counterparts. The discussions we have bring about so many different ideas,” she says. Sharanya Haridas, another student, agrees that it is this flexibility that makes their course very interesting. “After your basic course, you get to study what interests you.”

Students admitted to their being a little anxious earlier about finding jobs, but now, with the course getting more and more exciting, they are an optimistic lot who know they could make a mark almost anywhere.


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