The number of American bachelor’s degrees in disciplines such as language, history, and the classics has been declining for decades — from 14 percent in 1966 to 7 percent in 2010. At Harvard College, 17 percent of students are humanities concentrators today, down from 21 percent about a decade ago.
Interest in humanities degrees is declining according to other measures, too. For instance, the number of incoming freshmen at Harvard who say they will concentrate in the humanities drops 57 percent by the end of their third semester.
Against this backdrop, a panel of experts met last year in front of a capacity crowd at Radcliffe Gymnasium. “The Humanities and the Future of the University,” convened by the Mahindra Humanities Center and funded by the Office of the President, explored ways of reviving interest in the reflexive and analytical disciplines that make up humanistic study.