Anthropology and Employment:

Anthropology and Employment:
A Survey of Human Sciences Graduates
at the University of Durham
Bob Simpson, Simon Coleman and Janet Starkey

University of Durham
Department of Anthropology

This report is prepared as part of a project funded by C-SAP (Centre for Learning and
Teaching - Sociology , Anthropology & Politics). The project is entitled
‘Anthropology in Policy, Practice and Professional Development: A Distance
Learning Package for Under-graduates [Project Ref: 07/A/02. Amount of award
We would like to express our thanks to the staff at CSAP and in particular to
Professor Sue Wright [former Director of CSAP], Dr. Anthony Rosie, Dr David Mills,
Ms Michelle Poole and Ms Francis Thompson. We are grateful for the assistance of
Ms Rosie Simpson with data in-putting and Dr Emma Gilberthorpe for undertaking
the interviews.
Finally, we would like to extend our thanks to the Human Sciences Graduates who
spent their time and effort filling out our questionnaires and talking with us in
Table of Contents
Changing Landscapes in Higher Education 1
Human Sciences at Queen’s Campus, University of Durham 3
The Knowledge and Practice Module 7
The Survey of Human Sciences Graduates 8
Job Descriptions 10
Personal Development 13
Financial Circumstances 14
Future Career Prospects 15
Usefulness of Human Sciences in Securing Employment 15
Employer Interest in Degree Subject 17
Having One’s Time Over Again 18
The Usefulness of My Degree 19
Knowledge and Practice 20
Vocational Support 22
Timelines 24
Biographical Factors and Employment 33
Conclusions: Anthropological Knowledge and Skill in relation to Employment 34
Coda: Future Research 35
References 37
Appendix One: Knowledge and Practice Course Documentation 38
Appendix Two: The Survey Letter and Questionnaire 56
Appendix Three: Telephone follow-up on none-responders 64

Anthropology and Employment: A Survey of Human
Sciences Graduates at the University of Durham
Changing Landscapes of Education
Introducing a 2002 C-SAP conference entitled ‘The New Higher Education: Learning
and Teaching in a Knowledge Society’,1 Sue Wright used the imagery of landscape to
describe the current situation facing teachers and students in UK universities. The
landscape she sketched was dominated by a sheer cliff face on top of which were
placed the ‘international knowledge economy’ and higher educational policies and
institutions. Lower down were students, disciplines and the stream of learning and
teaching. Somewhere in between these two points were presumably lecturers,
struggling to keep a perspective on the landscape above and below them. Whether or
not we agree on the specific elements that make up the image, it serves an important
purpose, which is to suggest that all education exists in an often precipitous social and
political context that encompasses local, national and even transnational influences.
Furthermore, it is crucial for us to try to understand how these elements for students,
teachers, researchers and administrators feature as part of the changing landscape of
UK higher education.
Such a remark might seem to be a truism when presented to social scientists, and yet
when applied to anthropology it expresses a situation that has been surprisingly
unremarked by practitioners of the discipline. Anthropologists have been expert at
examining the social contexts of ‘the field’ but far less adept at analysing and
comprehending developments in the teaching institutions in which they spend much
of their time. As a result, we know little of how the discipline is reproduced outside
the confines of a relatively narrow, university based genealogy. The majority of
anthropology students pass through the system leaving little imprint on the subject
and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, with their degrees making little
imprint on them. In short, we know little about how anthropology is received and
interpreted by students when they are at university, and even less about its relevance
to them once they graduate.
Raising these questions is important if we are to move beyond a view of anthropology
which focuses merely on academic ‘content’ and begins to explore anthropological
pedagogy in terms of its own distinctive ‘culture’, processes and outcomes. Such
questions are especially important at the present time given shifts in the economic and
political landscape of higher education in the United Kingdom and beyond. The
conjunction of widening access to higher education, new forms of accountability
under-pinning the allocation of scarce resources and the progressive shift of higher
education funding onto students themselves with the inevitable consequence of long
term indebtedness means that many of the attractions of a liberal education in the arts
or humanities are being eclipsed by the pursuit of vocational and practical courses.
As a consequence of this conjunction, Universities are now competing for scarce
research and teaching resources in a way that they never have before. There is also an
1 (Aston University, 11-12 January 2002; cf. Coleman 2002:26)
expectation of higher levels of self-funding than might have been evident even in the
1980s, as well as the looming spectre of ‘top-up fees’. Incursions into the structure of
actual course delivery have also been in evidence. Modularisation has, in theory,
increased the possibility of student choice in constructing degree programmes in
which there is less loyalty to a single discipline or cohort of fellow students, and
greater emphasis on the instrumental ‘worth’ of a given topic. Echoing this point,
Mills notes (2003:19) a real decline over the last decade of applications to single
honours social science disciplines in favour of more mixed and thematic degrees, and
often ones with an explicit vocational relevance. Anthropology is itself caught in this
tide; increasingly taught in multidisciplinary programmes, with some established
honours programmes showing signs of recruitment problems. Given such
developments, a question one might pose is how much anthropology is necessary to
make a student a bona fide anthropologist? More generally, there is the question of
how anthropology is perceived by a student body that is becoming more diverse and
fragmented in terms of class and age profiles as widening participation policies take
their effect. In comparison with other social sciences (Mills 2003:20), 63% of
anthropology students in 2002 whose economic background was known came from
the top two social class categories, compared with 52% for sociology, and an average
for all the social sciences of 56%. While it is true that anthropology has tended to be
taught in the older universities and therefore has been likely to attract such a
constituency, we should also ask whether the discipline as it is currently constituted is
only partially effective in moving beyond established constituencies and, if so, why?
One possible explanation for the current position of anthropology in the academic and
socio-economic landscape of the UK is that its practitioners have failed to
demonstrate the relevance of the discipline in the world of work into which the vast
majority of anthropology graduates try to enter. Failure in this regard may continue to
have repercussions, with the future of some programmes in anthropology coming
under threat of closure. Sillitoe (2003:2) therefore asks: ‘What is it to be an
anthropologist employed outside the academy?’ and argues for the need to increase
the profile of anthropology in fields where it has obvious ‘relevance’ such as
development, forensic science, the media, museums and intercultural work, but also
other occupations where the benefit of an anthropological training is less clear, such
as law, banking, social work, human resources, retailing, management and the armed
forces [also see Simpson 1997 and Pink and Fardon 2004]. We agree with Sillitoe
that, at the very least, investigating the fate of anthropology beyond universities is a
vital task that needs to be undertaken sooner rather than later. In similar vein, Mills
(2003:22) suggests that: ‘There is scope for further investigation into the sorts of
students who study anthropology, and into where people take their subject-specific
skills after their undergraduate or postgraduate training.’
In this report we present results from an empirical and inductive study of
anthropology graduates and the use their anthropology degree has been to them in
their working or personal lives. What follows is, among other things, precisely an
attempt to initiate investigation of the kind called for by Sillitoe and Mills, and an
attempt to link one particular culture of anthropological pedagogy in the UK with
developments at national and international levels.
Human Sciences at Queen’s Campus, University of Durham.
The anthropology course that is the focus of this research has been delivered at the
Queen’s Campus of the University of Durham since it was first opened in 1992. Since
then, numerous changes have occurred in the organisation and orientation of the
University of Durham’s involvement at the Stockton site. In order to situate these
developments in relation both to the broader picture outlined in the previous section
and to the detailed survey material presented later, it is first necessary to provide a
brief history of the University of Durham’s involvement with developments at
Stockton 2
Queen’s Campus [QC] is located some 18 miles south of Durham in the town of
Stockton, formerly known for its ship-building and heavy engineering. At the present
time, the Campus has two colleges. One is named after John Snow, a pioneer of
public health, and the other after George Stephenson, the famous railway engineer.
Both these nineteenth-century luminaries have strong connections with the North East
of England. Significantly, they represent the worlds of medicine and industry as
opposed to the saints and bishops that have often been used to name colleges based in
Durham. The Stockton colleges are, however, modelled on and an integral part of the
Durham collegiate system and at the time of writing have around 900-950 students
each.3 Before it was given the title of Queen’s Campus in 2000, the campus was
known as the University of Durham, Stockton Campus (UDSC) and did not have
colleges. Prior to that it was known as University College Stockton (UCS) which,
although a college, bore little relation to those on the Durham campus: unlike them, it
was essentially a teaching institution only, and its semi-autonomous character was
evident in the fact that it was run on a two-semester system unlike the three terms
used in Durham. During the planning stage and first year of the institution’s life it
bore the rather unwieldy title of Joint University College on Teesside [JUCOT]. The
shifting of titles and designations in itself captures something of the difficulty that
existed in trying to attach a new, purpose-built and radically new institution onto one
that was both prestigious and established.
At the outset the proposal for a ‘joint’ enterprise was a novel cross-sector
collaborative venture between a polytechnic (Teesside) and an ‘old’ university
(Durham); at that time this was a bold and innovative model for future integration
within a two-tier higher education system. However, with re-organisation of the
Higher Education sector in the early 1990s and the re-designation of polytechnics as
universities, the attraction of cross-sector collaboration ceased to have meaning and
polytechnics elected to pursue the path of autonomy rather than integration. As a
consequence, after passionate courtship, marriage, and the successful birth of an
institution, the parents decided to dissolve their partnership, with custody of their
(now quite large) offspring passing entirely to the University of Durham. There then
followed a process of developing closer administrative and bureaucratic integration
between Durham and Stockton. The fact that the institutional cultures were very
different is evident from the emergence of the terms ‘Durhamisation’ and
‘Stocktonisation’ in the vocabulary of administrators and academics to describe the
harmonisation of procedures according to whose systems were being made to fit with
2 See Coleman and Simpson(2003) for a more detailed account of the development of
the Human Sciences programme at the Queen’s Campus, Stockton..
3 Thanks to Dr Karen Wesson for providing numerical data on Queen’s Campus.
whose. Inevitably, taking into account respective size and institutional momentum
there was a good deal of ‘Durhamisation’ and not much by way of ‘Stocktonisation’.
Following, the acquisition of responsibility for the campus by Durham, there was also
a substantial development of the infrastructure and an increase in the numbers of staff
and students involved.
Given the origins and recent history of the Stockton development it is not surprising
that the character of the Queen’s Campus is markedly different from the parent
institution in Durham. The distinctions are more than merely geographical. While
Durham is the third oldest university in England, QC represents one of the most
significant single additions (along, perhaps, with Lincoln) to the University world in
Britain in recent years. Durham students have tended to come from middle-class,
often southern backgrounds, with a record of high achievement at A-level. QC in its
earlier incarnations was constructed partially in order to attract local, often workingclass
students from the Teesside conurbation, which at that time had one of the lowest
take-up rates for higher education in Europe (cf. Beynon et al. 1994).
In the early days, the mission of QC corresponded closely with the efforts of the then
Conservative government to increase the proportion of the population who were
educated to degree level (Benn & Fieldhouse 1993). Such policies were formulated
against the backdrop of an economy in the throes of re-structuring, with redundancies
and high levels of unemployment an inevitable consequence. Under such conditions,
education and training were seen as the key to a change of career. As far as higher
education was concerned the broad theoretical framework upon which many of these
developments were hung was Torsten Husén’s notion of the ‘learning society’ (1974;
cf. 1986 also see Antikainen et al 1996). Husén's vision was of people having access
to lifelong learning, with a variety of institutions supporting formal and informal
education across the life-course. One of the more radical consequences of attempts to
realise the ‘learning society’ was the dramatic increase in the number of mature
students entering a higher education system that was in many ways more ‘userfriendly’.
In the early 1990s, a high proportion of QC students were indeed ‘mature’,
ranging from their mid-twenties to mid-sixties. Many were the first of their family to
go to University, and had previously held jobs or brought up children with little or no
expectation of going into Higher Education.
Thus, the Durham and the Stockton Campuses were in some respects akin to
academic moieties, complementing each other in the formation of alternative
approaches to providing education. However, evaluation of the role and status of the
new development was highly variable: one senior administrator would often refer to
the project as ‘Durham’s social conscience’; others would present it in rather less
stirring terms as ‘Durham’s special needs department’. More recently policy changes
within the University have moved this particular debate on considerably. Broadly
speaking, the widening-participating agenda is now seen as the responsibility of the
whole University and not just the Stockton site. In addition, QC has begun to develop
its own distinctive academic and research profile (enhanced considerably by a new
medical faculty being located on the site). Although elements of the original
widening-participation agenda still survive at QC, the high proportion of local mature
students who came to the campus, often with a strong sense of community connection
and ownership, has now been greatly diluted by students with a more conventional
Durham profile.4
Anthropology was a key element in the early development of QC and its strategy of
involvement also reflected many aspects of the ‘new’ and the ‘old’. The Durham
Department is located in an Edwardian building near the centre of the City. It is
overlooked by the city’s Norman castle and cathedral, and is close to the river Wear --
a location for student rowing competitions and heritage tours. The QC buildings are
situated on the banks of the Tees, on the site of a former shipyard. On the site,
extensive removal of past industrial pollution created a new, ‘cleansed’ landscape of
apparent post-industrial opportunity. Over ten million pounds was provided by the
Department of the Environment via the Teesside Development Corporation to build
the first phase of the campus. The project was followed by a second teaching building
completed in 1998 and a research building which was completed in 2001. Further
plans for new student residences, teaching blocks and a science park are also in the
offing. New housing and business premises have been located on the site, and the
river combines a canoe slalom with a stretch of water that has potential as an Olympic
standard rowing course. The first University building to be erected on the site
resembles a large space ship awaiting launch. Significantly, it was for a time used in
the evenings by Star Trek addicts, who liked its ‘space-age’ appearance and who at
their meetings would imaginatively convert it into the USS Resolution. Such a
similarity was not lost on the advertising agency employed to design campus
recruitment materials: ‘It’s Durham University, Jim, but not as we know it’
proclaimed one advertisement depicting the College-as-starship.
While the degree offered at Durham is described as ‘Anthropology’, those taught at
QC have until recently been identified by the more generic labels of ‘Human
Sciences’ (BA and BSc) and ‘Health and Human Sciences’ (BSc).5 The original
intention here was to leave behind a term that might be associated with a narrow
specialism and thereby pitch anthropology at new constituencies. Human Sciences
was also deemed to be a good title because it captured the breadth of social and
biological approaches to humanity within the degree in a way that the term
anthropology might not for an unfamiliar audience. In keeping with these attempts to
give anthropology a different kind of accessibility, Human Sciences modules
transformed stock anthropological subjects into more vernacular form: kinship, for
instance, became split into such modules as ‘Sex, Reproduction and Love’, and
‘History and Change in the Family’. There was also considerable emphasis on
research techniques and practical skills. Only in their final year would students from
both departments come together to take selected modules in Stockton or Durham.
Much that goes on at QC would be duplicated in any anthropology department in the
country: lectures are given, seminars and classes taken, essays written, and books
4 In 1997, 8.9% of students studying anthropology at Durham were recorded as
‘mature’ compared with 51.8% studying Human Sciences at QC. By 2000 these
figures had reduced to 4.3% mature students at Durham and 22.7% at QC. [University
of Durham Staff and Students Statistical Handbook 1996-97 and 2000-01].
5 Significantly, as part of recent discussions about the changing local landscapes of
HE there are discussions underway about re-naming some of the Human Sciences
degrees so that they have ‘anthropology’ in their titles.
such as The Nuer read and reflected upon. As at Durham, biological and social
anthropology modules are taken by most students throughout all of their three years.
Yet, particularly in the early years of the Human Sciences programme, there was also
a more pronounced policy of making explicit the links between academic study and
the rest of students’ lives. Students were indeed encouraged to make of themselves
objects of study. At the simplest level, staff attempted as far as possible to draw on
Western as well as non-Western material, undertaking local field trips and exercises,
considering personal experience as well as the more familiar renditions of the ‘other’.
Particularly in the social methods elements of the course, there was a conscious
attempt to use anthropology as a reflexive, pedagogical tool. Much of this approach
persists in the current delivery of the programme but in a somewhat attenuated form.
Reductions in contact time with students and growing pressures to meet research
output targets have meant that the quality of engagement needed to stimulate and
manage students’ personal as opposed to just academic engagement with the course is
difficult to sustain. Indeed, what began as an innovative and unconventional approach
to the delivery and assessment of anthropology has in some respects moved closer to
the mainstream. As we have already seen, such changes are driven by wider structural
shifts in British higher education. Most notable of these is a move away from studentcentred
learning with its aspiration to fashion the experience of higher education to
the student’s needs, and back to a discipline-based model. This shift has been to a
large extent driven by the demands of audit and the search for commensurability
between degree programmes. Similarly, the substantially raised stakes created by the
research assessment exercise have turned many teachers who carried out research into
researchers who carry out teaching.
It is against this changing mis-en-scène of higher education that the Human Sciences
programme has been delivered for the past ten years. The survey we report on here
thus covers a specific period in which a particular, reflexive style of pedagogy was
practised. One of the aims of this pedagogy was to develop the identity of students as
adult learners within a particular social setting and to enable them to become
knowledgeably skilful as part of the same process, with the former giving meaning to
the latter. We aspired to produce subjects capable of seeing how they were constituted
by their relationships with, and activities in, the world, with learning seen as integral
to a wider life course trajectory. The student experience of university thus involved
the partial objectification of self and de-objectification of knowledge, a dual process
in which knowledge was both an academic currency and a means to understand
oneself (cf. Coleman and Simpson 1999).
The survey and interviews we have undertaken enables us to follow this experiment
through into the lives of Human Science graduates, many of whom would not
normally have found their way into anthropology. The survey captures their
reflections on the Human Sciences degree in general and an applied anthropology
module in particular, and furthermore how these have related to their working lives
after graduation. It thus offers a unique insight into the way an undergraduate training
in anthropology translates [or fails to translate] into the world of work.
Although we only discovered the parallels in retrospect, our approach has much in
common with that of Jenkins, Jones and Ward (2001) in their examination of the
‘long-term effect of a degree’ on the working lives of Geography graduates from
Oxford Brookes University. These researchers carried out a follow-up study of a
degree course that, like those of Human Sciences, has consciously deployed active
learning methods as well as incorporated job-related student skills within its
curriculum.6 Jenkins et al. note (p.147) that most in-house evaluation techniques have
been biased towards questionnaire studies of individual modules, whereas very little
money has been invested in longer-term follow-up studies that assess the overall value
of a degree as a whole. A dearth of knowledge concerning the impact of degrees is
therefore evident in the UK. They argue (p.148) that one advantage of a long-term
approach is that it provides perspectives on higher education from different
employment sectors. Among their conclusions are the observations that, despite
similarities in course content over time, student reception and interpretation of such
content varies greatly, and changes over time in line with experiences during and after
leaving college. In addition, it seems that encouraging social bonds among peer
groups and between students and staff is a vital factor in enhancing the educational
experience. More generally, Jenkins et al. show the advantages of a longer-term and
qualitative approach to the evaluation of student experiences.
The Knowledge and Practice Module
While our survey questionnaire attempts to investigate the experiences of all
Human/Health and Human Sciences graduates from QC, we do have an additional
focus on a third-year optional module in applied anthropology which has run
throughout the period covered by the survey. The module is entitled Knowledge and
Practice and was, until 2002-03, delivered as a ten-credit module in the first semester
of the third year (see appendix one for a specimen of the course documentation). In
this form it dealt with the application of anthropological knowledge in a variety of
research and vocational contexts.
As part of a broader strategy to harmonise the structure of the academic year and the
modular system on the Durham and Stockton campuses, the University moved away
from semesters and back to year long modules [an illustration of ‘Durhamisation’ as
described above]. Funds were obtained from C-SAP to facilitate the development of
Knowledge and Practice into a year-long module (twenty credits) with some novel
additions. Principal of these was the attempt to deliver aspects of the module by
means of the University’s Blackboard (Durham University On-Line) learning
environment, incorporating a problem-based learning element.7 It was also intended
6 Their sample consisted of three graduates from each of 6 equidistant cohorts taken
from 1979 to 1994. Sixteen interviews were conducted based on questions such as
‘What use is a degree?’, ‘How do you think your degree experience relates to what
you have done since?’ The Geography students were largely middle-class and came
from an above average financial background. All interviewees were white. There was
an even balance of men and women with only two ‘mature’ students. At the end of
each interview, graduates were asked to make broad connections between the
components of their higher education experience and their life since. Most agreed
course content grew less and less useful.
7 The survey on which we are reporting here was also funded as part of the
development of the Knowledge and Practice module.
that in time the use of DUO would facilitate access to the module by students at both
In its current form, the module covers the history and scope of applied anthropology,
a critical exploration of the ethics of applying anthropology, transferring
anthropological methods to the work-place and potential applications of anthropology
in a range of careers. There are also opportunities for students to hear presentations
from visiting speakers currently in employment in fields such as social work, medical
administration and community work. A particularly popular session is one in which
Human Sciences graduates are invited back to reflect upon how their training and
education has been useful in their subsequent career. For their assessment, students
have to produce a portfolio that contains practical data such as a CV and evidence of
research into a potential future career, as well as a critical account of how the
knowledge and skills that anthropology provides might be used in this career,
covering issues such as ethics, advocacy, participation and power.
Whilst the general objective of the survey was to gain information from graduates
regarding their experiences after graduation, a more particular purpose was to gather
their reflections on the usefulness or otherwise of the Knowledge and Practice
module. Such information was deemed to be essential in developing and expanding
the module into its new, one year-long format. The results of this survey are presented
in the following section.
The Survey of Human Sciences Graduates 1995-2002
We sent survey questionnaires to all students who graduated from the Human
Sciences programme between 1995 (the first cohort) and 2002. The questionnaires
covered general queries regarding financial situation, personal development and the
use of the degree, as well as more specific questions about the Knowledge and
Practice module [see Appendix Two]. Out of a total of 437 questionnaires, 121 were
returned, giving a response rate of 27.6%. A further 10 came back to us marked
‘return to sender’ [2.2%].
A response rate of 27.6% is not unusual for a survey of this kind, particularly as we
were trying to locate people using contact addresses that were up to eight years old in
some cases. Nonetheless, it was felt necessary to do some further analysis of the nonresponders
in order to get some indication as to why they had failed to respond to the
survey and to assess the extent to which the responders were a wholly representative
group. To this end we undertook a random follow-up survey by telephone of 40 nonresponders
[13%] to ascertain why they had not replied to the original survey, and
added a small number of supplementary questions [see Appendix Three]. In the
majority of instances [n = 22 or 55%], respondents claimed that they had never
received the questionnaire in the first place. In a further 25% [10] of cases the
questionnaire was known to have gone to a previous address or that of a parent and
was not filled in. In six cases questionnaires were received but not returned. In five of
these cases it was out of neglect and in the sixth there was a straightforward refusal to
have anything to do with the survey or with the telephone interview. In two instances
questionnaires were said to have been filled in and returned but we never received
The exercise in following up a random sample of non-responders suggested that in the
majority of cases our failure to receive a response could be accounted for in terms of
practical issues such as a failure of the postal service or respondents’ change of
address. There would also seem to be nothing to suggest that failure to respond was
motivated by negativity towards the degree. Indeed, 78% [31] of the non-responders
answered positively when asked whether they would do the degree if they had their
time over again. This figure is broadly comparable with the 84% who responded
positively to the same question in the survey [see below page ??]. Thus, inasmuch as
we are able to draw any conclusions from the telephone follow-up of a small random
sample of non-responders, it would appear that members of this group were not
motivated in any obvious way by negative attitudes towards the course.
Students were surveyed for all years going back to the first cohort who graduated in
1995. The breakdown of the sample by year of graduation is shown in table one.
TABLE ONE Year of graduation.
Frequency Percent
1995 10 8.3
1996 17 14.0
1997 16 13.2
1998 13 10.7
1999 16 13.2
2000 13 10.7
2001 12 9.9
2002 24 19.8
Total 121 100.0
The sample was made up of 13% males [n= 16] and 87% females [105], which
broadly reflects the marked bias towards female students that has characterised the
Human Sciences programme since its inception. At graduation the students ranged in
age between 20 and 52 years with a mean age of 29 [std dev. 8.9]
The majority of the students who replied came from locations in the North-East of
England with 61% coming from the North-East of England and just over half of these
[36%] coming from the Teesside conurbation itself [see table two].
TABLE TWO Location of respondents
location Frequency Percent
Teesside 43 36
North east 30 25
elsewhere UK 46 38
overseas 2 2
Total 121 100
The degrees awarded are shown in table three. The BA in Human Sciences was the
first degree to be delivered within the Human Sciences programme in 1992, with the
BSc in Health and Human Sciences coming on stream a year later in 1993. The
relatively small number of BSc Human Sciences degrees awarded reflects the fact that
this programme only came into existence in 1997.
TABLE THREE Degrees awarded
Frequency Percent
Human Sciences BA 51 52
Health and Human Sciences BSc 43 43
Human Sciences BSc 4 5
Total 99 100.0
Job Descriptions
The current employment circumstances reported by graduates suggest a surprisingly
wide range of applications for Human Sciences degrees. These range from jobs where
there is seemingly limited connection with the substance of a Human Sciences degree,
such as a ‘Data in-put operator’ or a ‘Technical clerk in a nuclear power station’ ,
through to ones where the links are quite explicit such as a ‘Multi-cultural Education
Project Co-ordinator’ . This considerable breadth of destination would suggest that a
Human Sciences degree can be used either as an indication of a general level of
capability or in contexts where training in anthropology is more explicitly required.
The largest single category of employment is in the Health Service, which accounts
for 19% [16] of those in work [see Table Four]. As might be expected, 14 of the 16
who went into the Health Service graduated with a Health and Human Sciences BSc.
The jobs that make up this category include descriptors such as: ‘Specialist Diabetes
Dietician Nurse in a day surgery’, ‘ Community Nurse Practitioner’, ‘Mental Health
Assessment in Primary Care’, ‘ Registered Nurse - Level 1’, ‘ Registered Mental
Nurse (Staff Nurse) – NHS’, ‘ Sure Start midwife’, ‘Qualified as an occupational
therapist 2001 - joined Graduate Rotation with South Tees/Tees and North East
Yorkshire NHS Trust’. It is important to note that in some instances progression into
the reported employment was not direct but was dependant on further training, for
example, as in the case of the dietician or the occupational therapist.
The next most significant single category was local government and the civil service,
in which 17% [n=14] of graduates found work. The jobs that make up this category
include descriptors such as: ‘Lettings Officer’, ‘ School Library Service Manager’, ‘
Administration Officer (Jobcentre Plus)’, .’ Civil Servant (Jobcentre)’, ‘ Assistant
Community Safety Officer’, ’Borough Council Education Welfare Officer’,
‘Immigration Officer’, ‘Transport Supervisor - Borough Council, Community
Transport’. As is readily apparent the range of jobs subsumed under this category is
in itself extremely wide and suggests a number of possible levels of application for
Human Sciences knowledge and skills.
Of the remainder, 15% [n=12] went into either primary or secondary teaching,
13% [n=11] went into higher degrees or post-graduate qualifications and 9% [n=7]
found employment in social and community work of some description.
These five categories account for almost three quarters [73%] of the employment
destinations of the graduates who responded. The remainder is made up of those who
went into business, the armed services, tourism, personnel or opted to become fulltime
Frequency Percent
social / community worker 9 7
health service 23 19
manual/ service/ retail 3 2
further/ higher education 9 7
researcher - private sector
2 2
teacher - primary/ secondary
15 12
local government/ civil service
17 14
media 1 0.8
higher degrees 13 11
personnel/ management 3 3
training - private sector 2 2
voluntary sector / ngo 5 4
business/ industry 10 8
legal services 1 0.8
tourism/ hospitality 2 2
housewife 2 2
unemployed 2 2
secretarial/ administration
2 2
Total 121 100.0
The sample records a very low level of unemployment [2%]. Indeed, the numbers
reporting that they were unemployed markedly out of line with other destination
surveys for Anthropology and Human Sciences. Table Five, for example, summarises
graduate destination surveys sent out one year after leaving university and shows far
higher levels of unemployment for both Durham and Queen’s Campus graduates
[Richardson 2000]
TABLE FIVE: Graduate Destinations for Anthropology Courses at Stockton and Durham*.
Further Study
Not Available
QC Durham QC Durham QC Durham QC Durham
* adapted from Richardson 2000.
It may be that there is some tendency for those who are unemployed not to want to
report this back to us as it represents at a very basic level a failure to prosper from the
degree. However, this was not evident from the telephone follow-up survey. Of those
contacted 35 (86%) were in employment. Of the five remaining, two were retired and
three were unemployed; of the latter one was unemployed by choice (‘never had a job
in my life’), one on health grounds and only one was actively seeking work. Another
explanation for these figures is the fact that our surveys are being carried out up to
eight years after graduation which may suggest that the process of getting into stable
employment takes a little longer than the twelve months given before graduate
surveys are normally distributed.
One noticeable feature of the kinds of jobs that our graduates went into is the sizeable
number that are linked in some way with the notion of ‘ local regeneration’. Teesside
is currently the target of numerous initiatives designed to address issues such as social
exclusion, drug abuse, educational deficit, community-breakdown and the
consequences of long term unemployment. The kinds of job titles that appear on the
questionnaires suggest that some of our graduates are finding employment in these
new and often transient positions. For example, our respondents reported job titles
such as : ‘Steps Project Administrator for WEETU (Women’s Enterprise,
Employment Training Unit)’ , ‘Community Network Teamleader in a Voluntary
Development Agency (Supporting voluntary and community representatives on local
strategic partnerships.)’,’ Working for the "Aim Higher" Governmental Initiative’,
HARI (Housing and Regeneration Initiative) Project Officer’, ‘Community Health
Development Worker (Sure Start, Western Tynedale)’ and ‘Support Worker for Youth
Offending Service’. One recent and specialised field which graduates have moved
into relates to support for asylum seekers, typified in jobs titles such as: ‘Volunteer
Co-ordinator at First Step, a charity based in X who help Middle East women
(including asylum seekers and refugees) learn English, gain confidence and skills and
to get jobs’.
In some respects, these jobs suggest the completion of a loop in which the University
has operated as an agent of regional regeneration through its widening participation
endeavours. In time the benefits of a widened participation are felt as people return as
graduates back into the local employment economy in general and the field of
community support and regeneration in particular. However, although these jobs
offer satisfaction and an engagement with important social issues there is concern
about their sustainability; as one person commented: ‘Funding in the voluntary sector
often linked to time-limited re-generation schemes’.
Personal Development
Attitudes towards personal circumstances were explored via a question asking
whether respondents were satisfied with their current position in personal
development terms. A somewhat surprising 80% answered that they were [Table
TABLE SIX Satisfied with Current Position in Development Terms?
Frequency Percent
yes 95 80
no 24 20
Total 119 100.0
Written comments supporting this question suggest a range of interpretations were
placed on the idea of ‘personal development’. Some respondents took personal
development to mean something that happened in the context of their employment
such as ‘school is committed to personal development, always introducing new
initiatives’ or ‘this organisation wouldn’t know the meaning of personal development
if it walked up and slapped them on the face’. Others chose to relate the question
back to the degree, locating their university experience as foundational in a broader
personal narrative, as in the following: ‘I am a very different person compared to who
I was 4/5 years ago. I went to university because I had no clue what I wanted to do.
Luckily I found a course and discipline I really enjoyed, helping me to gain some
direction’ or ‘Since leaving university I feel I have matured and developed hugely in
both personal and professional terms. As soon as I left university I became a parttime
volunteer at Amnesty International at the same time as successfully completing a
post-graduate diploma in law. I chose to do these as a result of my degree subject, to
try to make it possible for me to use it in a practical way - human rights law’.
Amongst the positive responses, a strongly recurrent theme was that people have
ended up doing things that they enjoy doing and, just as important, there are
possibilities for development in their work, such as further in-house training or postgraduate
qualifications [diplomas and MAs etc]. Such sentiments are captured in the
words of a trainee clinical neuropsychologist: ‘The position I am in now is just the
first step of what I hope will be a long career in the health service. I love my job and
its variety (even though it sounds corny!). It allows me to set personal ambitions, and
hopefully these will be attainable in the future’.
Financial Circumstances
We asked respondents to comment on their satisfaction with present financial
circumstances. Just under half claimed that they were satisfied [47.5%] [see Table
Seven] with comments suggesting that these graduates had been able to land in stable
and reasonably well-remunerated careers such as teaching or certain specialist
positions within the Health Service. One former student who trained to be a lawyer
commented: ‘My current position is financially rewarding and my future earning
potential is excellent. However, the financial benefits are sometimes counterbalanced
by stress and long hours’. In one case a respondent who had secured a
senior management job with an international NGO simply wrote ’35,000 pa’, making
the point, no doubt, that his salary exceeded that of most of the people who taught
him. For others, it was made clear that their satisfaction was not down to the amount
of money they earned but to the satisfaction that they gained from the job. As one
local authority road safety technician commented: ‘My current salary is well below
that of a graduate, although I have sacrificed the "average salary" for a job that I
enjoy doing, which is more important to me than money - obviously if I had both then
that would be absolutely satisfactory’. Such sentiments were particularly evident
amongst those who had taken up work in the voluntary sector.
As one might imagine, the 52.5% who were not satisfied were more fulsome in their
comments. These respondents identified reasons for their dissatisfaction which fell
into three categories. First, there was a group who had gone into the Health Service
and the public sector who complained bitterly about general pay, terms and
conditions. Several commented that their responsibilities were far in excess of what
they were in fact paid to do and progression was either slow or non-existent. For
example, a senior staff nurse in a coronary care unit commented: ‘I have an extremely
responsible position; diagnosing, prescribing and administering drugs to patients
who have had a heart attack. Financially no reflection of this responsibility.’ The
second category had found themselves in jobs that, even though they were perhaps
reasonably remunerated, were short-term and did not inspire confidence in longer
term stability. The third category were those who had gone into further training and
who had as a result begun to run up even more debt. Respondents from each of these
categories passed comment that the presence of substantial under-graduate debt was a
continuing feature of their financial dissatisfaction.
TABLE SEVEN: Satisfied with Current Position in Financial Terms?
Frequency Percent
yes 56 47.5
no 62 52.5
Total 118 100.0
Future Career Prospects
Asked about how future career prospects were viewed, 72% [n=84] responded that
they were satisfied [Table Eight]. As in the earlier question regarding personal
development, there was a good deal of optimism expressed regarding work currently
undertaken and/or the prospect of future development therein. Respondents referred
to development opportunities that were employer-led as well as to personal initiatives.
Among those who answered negatively, the sources of disenchantment were similar to
those rehearsed in the earlier questions about finance and personal development, such
as, limited options in the job, responsibility without remuneration and unpredictability
of short term contracts.
TABLE EIGHT: Future prospects
Frequency Percent
yes 84 72
no 33 28
Total 117 100.0
Usefulness of Human Sciences in Securing Employment
Table Nine below indicates whether or not graduates thought their Human Sciences
degree had been an asset in securing employment. The majority [80%] felt that it had.
Clearly, where graduates were seeking employment in what might be broadly
conceived as human services, the degree was deemed to have been relevant in a wide
range of ways. Some students were able to make this connection quite explicitly:
‘Yes, the philosophy of occupational therapy is very close to anthropology. My health
and human sciences degree provided a sound base on which to develop/train as an
occupational therapist, particularly phenomenology and holism’, and another who
made the link between her work and ‘understanding of people, particularly in relation
to ethnicity and culture. I feel confident about my knowledge gained on the human
sciences degree’. Others highlighted the link from the employer’s viewpoint: ‘The
anthropology perspective is keenly sought in health related areas’ and ‘I gained
employment with a Child Protection Unit almost immediately after graduating.
During my interview my Human Sciences degree was one of the subjects I was most
asked about’. Some respondents pointed out how their anthropology had been used in
practical ways in the process of securing employment: ‘Certainly: knowledge from
anthropology assisted in interview processes and current employment’ or ‘The
diversity of the modules [studied on the course] has enabled me to develop a large
range of skills, many of which I had to use at interview’. Rather more perceptively
one graduate pointed out: ‘I think it marks me as "different" from other applicants and
maybe it helps interviewers remember me. Most people haven't a clue what it
is/means’. In similar vein, another suggested that: ‘A degree in any subject will get
you employment. The positive aspects to human sciences are that you don't get
pigeon-holed into the type of employment dictated by your degree (unlike say,
engineering) and almost every job requires a knowledge of people’.
TABLE NINE: Was Human Sciences Useful in Enabling You to Secure Employment?
Frequency Percent
yes 86 80
no 21 20
Total 107 100.0
Where the employment in question was of a more general nature the degree was much
more apt to be seen as an indicator of competence and ability. Positive responses
identified Human Sciences as a useful adjunct to gaining a degree qualification: thus,
in the words of one respondent, it was ‘not the human sciences degree per se [that
helped to secure employment], however I have found that degree status has been of
benefit to selling my ability to employers and subsequent discussions as to the content
of my degree have added depth to people's view of me’ or ‘I think any degree is useful
in securing employment, however the HS degree aided my personal development
significantly. The study methods used prepare you more for a serious job than the
usual cramming and exams. I have developed the skill of being able to think logically
and communicate with team members’. Amongst those who were more mixed in their
response was one student who subsequently went on to study law: ‘Yes and no! I
could not have become an advocate without specific professional qualifications and
so in that sense my degree was not directly relevant. However, the class of my degree
which I attribute to my love of the subject and a team of motivated and engaged
lecturers certainly assisted me in the job market’. Third, there were those who, whilst
happy to have a degree, saw little benefit in it having been in Human Sciences: ‘I
regret to admit this - either a vocational degree or work experience is all that matters
in business’ or, in another instance, ‘It’s been the most useless thing I’ve ever done in
my life [although I’m glad I have a degree per se]’.
A point made by at least two respondents highlighted the importance of volunteer
work in addition to formal degree qualifications: ‘Whilst I have found my degree
useful in my career, my employment arose from my volunteering and was not taken
into account for either my volunteering or paid employment’, and ‘Before I left
university I had secured employment as a social worker for asylum seekers. I do
believe that my degree was relevant but believe that the main factor in securing my
position was the fact that I had done a lot of voluntary work with refugees and asylum
seekers whilst at university’ . In the highly competitive raising of the employment
stakes graduates are increasingly thinking in terms of a degree-plus – experience,
placement, employer in-put etc. Crucial in this regard is volunteering, which for
many of our respondents features as an essential ‘foot in the door’.
Employer’s Interest in Degree Subject
Just over two-thirds [67%] of respondents reported that their employers were
interested in the subject of their degree [Table Ten]. As with the previous question,
the type of employment being sought appeared significant in determining the answer.
Where employers were looking for applicants with good ‘people skills’ the links were
readily evident: ‘Since my employers were looking for a person who had knowledge
of people as well as someone who could interact with them, they were very interested
in the subject of my degree’, and in another instance ‘within this field of training, the
"human" element has always sparked interest and led to discussion (and
debate!).They have been interested in the topics I studied and how my skills can be
applied to a working environment’. One particular aspect of employer interest arises
because anthropology is a little out of the ordinary and does seem to offer something
that other disciplines do not: ‘Each interview panel has shown curious interest in the
anthropological view’ or ‘Over the past 2 years I have had to liaise a lot with local
midwives, community workers and Pakistani Women's Centre officials for my current
research. I have discovered that many of these groups are very interested in my
background and how often many anthropologists are aware of the intricacies of
community life. Many practitioners do not share the same issues of sensitivity and
confidentiality’. Other respondents reported a healthy interest in anthropology but
with qualification: ‘Yes - but often required some explanation. Eg. putting "applied
anthropology" in brackets after it on CVs etc’ or ‘Very much so, once it was
explained to them!’ or ‘Always look surprised when you say "medical anthropology",
then you explain and they turn to being interested. However, one of the commonest
responses of employers was indifference, particularly in circumstances where the job
involved was of a more general nature. This was evident from comments such as:
‘only on a chatty level’, ‘never been asked about it at all’ and ‘"What did you study?"
- a common question, more getting to know you than an intrinsic interest in the
subject’. For others, there was an element of surprise and frustration at the extent of
ignorance at employers who did not seem to know what anthropology is: ‘They don't
know what it is. Even when you explain that it's "anthropology", they look at you
blankly. They think it's some airy-fairy course and would probably prefer an
Economics degree or something’ or ‘If I say I did Human Sciences, people don't know
what that entails. If I say anthropology, they look even more baffled’.
TABLE TEN: Were Employers Interested in the Subject of Your Degree?
Frequency Percent
yes 75 67
no 37 33
Total 112 100.0
Issues of presentation are clearly important for Human Sciences graduates and
arguably they face a double challenge in this regard. They must not only explain what
Human Sciences is, but also what anthropology is. Some respondents found this to be
a positive and constructive challenge in that it gave them an opportunity to sell
themselves and their degree, and they did so, it would seem, to good effect. For
others the task of explaining to an uninterested employer who may have only been
concerned with someone who could get a job done proved to be a little more
discomfiting for applicants.
Having One’s Time Over Again
Responses to the crucial question of whether graduates would have chosen the same
degree if they had their time over again, were extremely positive with 84% saying that
they would [Table Eleven].
TABLE ELEVEN: Would you do the Same Degree Again?
Frequency Percent
yes 94 84
no 18 16
Total 112 100.0
Many of the comments reported by respondents give an impression of the positive
engagement with the Human Sciences programme: ‘Loved it. Had I been asked to
write my own degree course I would have come up with something very similar’,
‘Absolutely. Its value has been incalculable both in my professional career and on a
personal level’, ‘The teaching and course content was always of a very high standard.
Support was always available when you had any problems’, ‘No regrets at all. I
would choose exactly the same options - and would still wish I had been able to
choose more’ and ‘It took me until my third year to really "get" anthropology, but I
loved the subject and the course. Others highlighted the practical value of the course
in their working lives: ‘I have always wanted to work with people so my human
sciences degree was extremely relevant for what I wanted to do. Whilst in
employment there were numerous times when the skills I had learned during my
degree were beneficial, i.e., I conducted research concerning parents' attendance at
child protection conferences’, ‘It was extremely interesting and taught me a lot, not
least how to work with different people and how to manage and plan big projects.
The different style of reading matter also developed my interest in topics which I
hadn't previously considered’ and ‘Health and human sciences lends itself eloquently
and appropriately to my current field of work. It has helped close what is sometimes
called the "theory-practice gap". For others the encounter with anthropology clearly
had a much more profound and personal impact: ‘Changed my way of thinking and
life!’, ‘Loved the course and gained a lot of knowledge and personal development’,
‘The degree helped me to be who I am today and where I am today, both of which, I
think, are quite OK, you know’. ‘I enjoyed my degree very much. It has helped me in
the way I think about things, I used to act before I thought and now I don't. My
understanding of different cultures surprises people. I still read anthropology books
and journal articles’ and ‘What I learned during my degree has provided me with
inspiration for further research directly related to motherhood. I am my child's first
teacher and I feel a huge responsibility to do this "work" to the best of my ability.
Unlikely - but true, HHS made me a better parent! I would not practice co-sleeping,
in-arms parenting, extended breast-feeding or be as interested in other health issues
(vax, etc) if I had not completed my BSc’. Amongst some of the younger students
however, the realisation that they were being treated to something special came a little
too late: ‘And I would put more effort into my studies now than perhaps I did as a
naïve 18-year-old… the benefit of hindsight!’ and ‘I would [do the same degree
again] but I am a "late developer", and feel that I could gain so much more if I were
to do it again now.
In other cases the response was positive but questions had subsequently arisen when it
came to practical application: ‘I enjoyed my time studying at Stockton and thought the
degree was excellent. The harsh reality is that it has done little for me despite
achieving a 2:1. Employers seem to be more concerned with employing graduates of
more "commercially minded" subjects’ or ‘It totally changed my perspective on the
world, I find my friends from the course are the only ones you can have a really good
anthropological debate with. One of the best decisions I ever made, just don't know
what to do with it’.
Among the 16% who would not opt to do the degree again the dominant reason was
that of vocational relevance. Given their time again, these respondents would not take
an anthropology degree but would go directly to a degree linked to a professional
qualification: ‘I would have done a degree in social work - something vocational’,
‘Would probably have picked a more "vocational" subject’ and ‘I think I would have
chosen a more work related degree, e.g. nursing/social work’. Finally, there were the
small minority of students for whom the degree did not go down well at all: ‘It's an
arty farty waste of time subject with no core - everyone scoffs at it - the only saving
grace is I can say I did it at Durham, and even then I can't mention Stockton’.
The Usefulness of My Degree
Respondents were asked how useful different aspects of their degree had proved to be
in their working life. Responses were ranked according to a five-point scale in
relation to the following aspects of the degree:
__General social skills acquired as being part of university life [socskills]
__Appreciation of scope and complexity of human diversity [humdiv]
__Computing skills [comp]
__Opportunity to carry an in-depth study of an academic discipline [indepthstud]
__Report writing [repskill]
__Basic research skills [resskill]
__General confidence building [conf]
__Communication skills [comm.]
__Numerical and statistical skills [numstat]
__Awareness of other cultures and societies [othcult]
__Working in groups [gpwk]
It is clear from Table Twelve that the majority of students found these elements of
their degrees either ‘very useful’ or ‘invaluable’. Indeed, with the exception of
numerical and statistical skills, all the items identified had a mean score greater than
four. The most useful thing taken from the degree was an ‘appreciation of scope and
complexity of human diversity’ which scored 4.4. This was closely followed by an
‘awareness of other cultures and societies’ [4.3] and communication skills [4.3].
Numerical and statistical skills had the lowest mean score at 3.4. This score is in
itself surprisingly high given the perennial complaints that staff encounter in relation
to this aspect of the course.
TABLE TWELVE: Which Parts of your Degree did you Find Useful in your Working
div comp
skill conf comm
1. not useful at all 6 2 1 6 5 6 3 2 8 3 5
2. not very useful 9 3 6 8 5 5 5 4 26 7 8
3. useful 23 15 24 27 23 15 25 22 36 12 19
4. very useful 29 27 32 28 36 36 33 28 27 28 29
5. invaluable 50 74 56 49 50 58 54 62 21 70 59
Mean Score 4.1 4.4 4.2 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.1 4.3 3.4 4.3 4.1
Knowledge and Practice
The Knowledge and Practice module was offered to students as a year three, 10 credit
module [i.e.duration of one semester8]. A total of 68% [81] of those responding to the
survey had opted to take the module. Those who did take the module were asked
whether it had met its aims of providing support and guidance in applying their
anthropological knowledge to a future career. The items we asked them to rank were
as follows:
__Gave useful ideas for applying my degree after graduation [kpapplic]
__Gave me a critical understanding of the nature of applied anthropology
__Provided useful practical information when it came to searching for jobs to
apply for [kppractinf]
__Enabled me to reflect upon my personal development [kppersdev]
__Inspired confidence to use my degree in the world of work [kpconf]
__Gave me practical skills that increased my chance of successful job
applications [kpjpbapp].
Most of the respondents found the module moderately useful with all the mean scores
falling between 3.3 and 3.9. [Table Thirteen]. The most successful aspect of the
module was in providing students with the opportunity to reflect on personal
development [3.9]. This aspect of the module is evident in comments such as: ‘The
ability to express concerns and worries and get answers’, ‘The opportunity to review
my own learning and development in a safe and supported environment’ and ‘Mainly
helped with personal confidence when applying and searching for jobs; very helpful’
or, put rather more colloquially: ‘Overall confidence to "blag it" sometimes’.
Personal support was closely followed by the provision of practical support [3.8].
This aspect of the module drew by far the most written comments such as: ‘The
chance to look at a wide range of jobs’, ‘How to "sell" your degree’, ‘I still use the
CV as a basis for the one I use now’, ‘CV constructing - wish that more time was
available for restructuring CV. Would like ideas on really pulling to bits different
modules from degree and looking at how to sell the skills and knowledge to
employers’, ‘I applied to the Economic Social Research Council and the module
8 Initially, University College Stockton, as it was then, operated with a semester
system. In 2002, the two campuses harmonised academic years and modular structure
in the form of six year-long modules per academic year. In 2003-04 Knowledge and
Practice was delivered as a year long, 20 credit module and re-titled ‘Applying
Anthropology: From Knowledge to Practice’.
helped me in the application process. Even though I was unsuccessful, the process of
applying helped me gather thoughts and ideas for research’ and ‘Basically having to
work out how degree was relevant for certain employment in project for module has
been invaluable for applying degree to different situations (ie. Interviews,
The least successful item was in providing students with ideas for applying for jobs
[3.3]. Rather disappointingly, the module did not elicit a particularly positive
response in relation to understanding the nature of applied anthropology.
TABLE THIRTEEN: Was the Module Successful on Providing Support and Guidance?
kpapplic kpund kppracti kppersde kpconf kpjobapp
not at all 7 4 9 5 8 4
not much 14 17 10 7 10 12
moderately so 26 22 18 16 15 14
much so 15 22 25 18 26 20
very much so 18 17 18 36 22 31
Mean Score 3.3 3.4 3.4 3.9 3.5 3.8
Generally it would seem that the module was not quite so well-received as the more
general aspects of the programme. However, in as much as it was successful it helped
in terms of practical support and was not particularly remembered for the more
intellectual and theoretical aspects of applied anthropology. The limited success of
the module could be put down to methodological problems such as difficulty of recall,
with many in the earlier cohorts stating that they could not remember the module
particularly well. However, a more substantive issue arose out of the need to balance
the content of the module such so that it appealed both to those who had little idea of
what they would do after their degree as well as to those who already had a clear idea.
Among the latter, comments such as the following were made: ‘Being a mature
student I had a very good idea about what I wanted to do and how to go about it’ and
‘I didn't find the Knowledge and Practice module that useful. It didn't really allow me
to look further than the career in health care and it would have been more useful
looking at a career which suited me’. For those in the former category the steps
involved in moving from knowledge to practice were not spelt out nearly explicitly
enough. It may therefore have been that in certain respects the module fell between
two stools: not specific enough for some and too specific for others.
A further issue raised by at least one respondent concerns concerned the way in which
the whole relationship to the world of work was presented. As enthusiasts for the
application of anthropology it may have been that tutors were over- optimistic, as one
respondent implied: ‘In reality, finding a job is much harder than was made out in
this module’. The reality of finding employment in a market saturated with graduates
is a harsh one and this is particularly so in a region where unemployment is high and
the local economy is under-developed following the demise of heavy industry and
Finally, one aspect of the module which that did work exceptionally well was the
session in which recent graduates are were invited back to talk about how they used
their anthropology in their subsequent employment. This exercise seems to have
worked well for the providers and consumers, as the following comments illustrate: ‘I
gave a talk (with a couple of other ex-students) to new students of this module - I
found this useful as it enabled me to acknowledge how much I had done since leaving
university’ and one respondent reported that what she had enjoyed most about the
module was ‘the classes in which past students spoke about their career paths since
leaving university’.
Vocational Support.
The question of vocational support for Human Sciences’ students is a complex one
and at the outset, interpretations of responses to this question need to be qualified by
the fact that vocational support has improved massively over the ten years that the
programme has been in existence. For the first cohort to graduate in 1995, vocational
such support was virtually non-existent apart from what the Knowledge and Practice
module had to offer. As one student commented: ‘Careers guidance at the end of the
HS degree was somewhat limited in 1995, but then most things were then anyway. I
trust it’s improved since then’. Since that time, support offered to students at
Stockton has progressively improved as efforts have been made to equalise careers
advisory in-put across the two campuses. Queen’s campus now has a very active and
well-run sub-office of the central Durham University Careers Advisory Service. The
development of this service has enabled a more appropriate division of labour to
develop between the tutors delivering Knowledge and Practice and the Careers
Advisory Service staff. Provision of better central support has meant that tutors can
focus more on the anthropological issues of applying knowledge to practice without
the need to be drawn into the very necessary practical business of preparing students
for their next step after graduation.
Notwithstanding the changing environment in which Knowledge and Practice has
been delivered, we specifically asked whether vocational support could be
strengthened through Human Sciences modules. Some 60% [n=57] felt that it could
be improved [see Table Fourteen]. However, the comments regarding vocational
guidance were mostly very positive, with the majority commenting favourably on the
support received. A small minority felt that they had either failed to seize the
opportunities they had had whilst at university or had simply not noticed that there
was any vocational support at all. The question of how the support might be improved
produced by far the most written responses with many useful and perceptive
suggestions being made.
The most common suggestion made by graduates was for more linkages with
potential employers, particularly in the third year of the degree. The reason for this is
hinted at by one student who pointed out that ‘you concentrate so much on getting
through to the end it all takes some adjustment after graduation’. In other words, the
switch from the somewhat introverted world of under-graduate study to the ‘real’
world of working and seeking work is one that can prove stressful, challenging and a
severe shock to the system. The prescription given by many students to make this
transition less demanding and more successful was, in effect, to blur the boundaries
by mixing, in various ways, the two worlds. For example, suggestions such as: ‘Build
better links with local and national employers’ and ‘More job seminars with actual
employers’ were common. Others envisaged a more substantive involvement with
future employers through work-experience schemes in which the student stepped into
the world of work: ‘Work placement in diverse areas, anywhere where skills and
knowledge may be developed and honed in readiness for a career’ or ‘Some kind of
international experience or fieldwork experience in the UK would place students in a
stronger position than most’. Some took an even stronger line: ‘Work experience for
applied anthropology should be mandatory’. The pay-offs of work placements was
seen by some as directly linked to future employment prospects: ‘Students would gain
practical experience by applying their theoretical knowledge within the workplace.
Once students have graduated, I am sure they would not find it difficult securing
employment in the relevant field’. Working in the other direction, some saw benefits
in bringing the world of work into the degree: ‘Perhaps more "outsider" input.
Something like a careers fair with representatives from occupations where a degree in
anthropology would be useful. (e.g. local government, tourism, museums, personnel)’
and ‘More practically/vocationally based research projects/dissertations. Doing my
dissertation based within NHS day hospitals was a real bonus to getting employment
within the NHS’.
A further suggestion as to how the transition might be eased came from several
students who advocated what might be thought of as ‘buddying’ schemes in which
graduates who have moved into employment are put in touch with under-graduates to
give support and advice. For example, suggestions offered in this vein included: ‘ A
mentoring system involving previous graduates who have done the degree and are
now working. This could be done via e-mail and link up any student with a particular
interest with someone in that field of work’ or ‘How about graduates like myself being
asked to give presentations to students (I have done this in past). Another idea is a
mentoring scheme where we as graduates are in contact with 3rd year students
helping them through the transition from university to work or further study’.
A second theme to emerge from respondents’ comments concerns the problem of
support in general and specific terms. As suggested above, some students come onto
the module with very clear vocational intentions and are looking for detailed careers
guidance that assists them into very particular pathways. Others, and these are
probably in the majority, have only vague ideas of where they would like to be in five
years time and besides work undertaken on the module there is a considerable amount
of careers advisory support needed to spell out the breadth of options available and
where anthropology might reasonably expect to be applied. This opposition is
captured neatly in the words of the following students:
Here there are a considerable number of students who use a degree to open
doors for them and a smaller group specifically wanting to pursue an
anthropologically specialised career. The largest number need help to
transpose the theory into wider practices, rather than in a specialised way. I
would have chosen a career in training earlier had my eyes been opened to how
anthropology can benefit training practice.
For those that require it, more guidance on how the skills learnt could be
applied to a business environment. I felt that just areas associated with Human
Sciences were focussed on, rather than offering a broader outlook for people,
like myself, who had no idea what career they wanted.
Help people to find a career path to aim to. I was more confused about which
career area to work in once I finished the course than when I started it
Finally, students identified a variety of ways in which the practical support given
might be strengthened around issues such as confidence-building, applying for jobs,
conducting interviews and presenting oneself and one’s discipline as credibly as
possible to an employer. As one student put it: ‘Individual information could be given
on a one-to-one basis where someone could come up with a job advert they were
interested in and "vocational support" could tell them how to apply what they
knew/had to get the job. It's about making the employer think you have what they
want, not necessarily what you have’. For students such as this it is clear that the
emphasis is on how to get a job, an assumption that is often at odds with the
orientation of tutors who are, if anything, more focused on the question of how to do
a job.
TABLE FOURTEEN: Do you Think Vocational Support Can be Improved?
Frequency Percent
yes 57 60
no 39 40
Total 96 100.0
In an attempt to give depth to the inevitable ‘flatness’ of a survey of the kind
undertaken, we asked respondents to provide in their questionnaire responses a brief
account of what had happened since graduation. Drawing inspiration from Participant
Rural Appraisal techniques, we asked respondents to construct a visual representation
of their experience in the form of a ‘timeline’ indicating high spots and low spots after
they left University, as well as critical events that had happened [see Appendix Two,
page 2 of questionnaire].
As a ‘rough and ready’ indicator of whether graduates ended up being in a ‘better’
position than when they graduated we began by considering whether they ended up
above, below or upon the line. The majority, 77% [n=82], reported that they had
reached a point where they were on the positive side of the line, and a further 18%
[n=19] that they were on the line. Only 6% [n=6] reported that they found themselves
below. It is interesting to note that many graduates experienced a post-graduation
dip. It would appear that, for many, the excitement and stimulation of being at
university and, to use the current jargon, a high ‘exit velocity’, were followed by a
dip in fortunes perhaps compounded by a move back with parents and/ or a period of
unemployment or sub-graduate level work. The timelines suggest that in time the
majority began to find their way forward in career terms. As we discuss below,
however, some simply moved back into the same lifecourse trajectory that they were
in before coming to university.
In addition, to these general indications of well-being, the timelines also furnished
detailed and useful biographical information concerning work, qualifications and
personal circumstances over the period since graduation. On the basis of the
information supplied by graduates in general and the timelines in particular we were
able to devise a four-fold classification as follows: ‘personal developers’,
‘instrumentalists’, ‘bricoleurs’ and ‘stalled developers’. We were fortunate in that
some additional funds were provided by C-SAP to carry out a small number of
interviews to explore the timelines in greater depth and to consider in more detail the
ways that graduates have actually incorporated their experiences of anthropology into
their subsequent working lives. Thus, having identified cases representative of our
classification we were able to select particular graduates for a follow-up interview in
which their timeline became the basis of a conversation which that enabled them to
elaborate on their experiences. These interviews with BA students, nine in all, were
tape-recorded and transcribed.9 Seven of the interviews have been used to develop
the case studies reported below.
The classification we devised for the timelines emerged out of some earlier and rather
more anecdotal work carried out with Human Sciences students. At that time it struck
us that student responses to the Human Sciences programme might be thought of in
terms of three ‘ideal-typical orientations’(Coleman and Simpson 1999:4). These
orientations were characterised as ‘personal development’, ‘instrumental knowledge’
and ‘spiritual bricolage’. In very crude terms these labels reflected a class basis for
students’ interest in the university experience. ‘Personal developers’ tended to be the
working class, mature students who in Bernstein’s terms were looking for a key to
unlock the ‘restricted codes’ that had characterised their earlier educational and work
experience (Bernstein et al. 1971). ‘Instrumentalists’ were often younger and middle
class, seeing a degree in any discipline as a required part of the transition into
adulthood and the means to progress into an unspecified career. Finally, ‘bricoleurs’
consisted of the smaller group of middle-class students who enlisted their
anthropology as part of a more ambitious project of self-building, often combining
their academic interests with novel forms of therapy, spirituality and community
work. Subsequently, we identified a fourth category – ‘stalled developers’. These
graduates had come to university with great expectations of personal and academic
development, achieved their ambition in getting a degree, but then found themselves
back in the same employment circumstances as they began. For some this was not
problematic in that university was looked upon as a break or interlude from a more
established vocation. For others however, the move back into an all-too-familiar
world of sub-graduate employment was a source of deep resentment and frustration,
and not least because of the long-term consequences of student-debt.
In the section that follows, we have combined our classification of the timelines with
the interviews to produce seven case studies.
Personal developers:
9 We are grateful to Emma Gilberthorpe who carried out the interviews and later transcribed them.
Case study 1 -- Breaking the mould
Michael came onto the Human Sciences programme in his early twenties. Prior to
that he had worked in retail with the North-Eastern Co-op. He had little idea of the
content of the degree and assumed it would be predominantly about human evolution.
He enjoyed his time on the degree immensely and much to his surprise found the
content to be much wider than he expected. He claimed that his encounter with
anthropology ‘changed my way of thinking and my life’. However, upon graduation
he went back to his previous employers as a retail manager. This was a low point in
Michael’s career as he felt that returning to his old employers suggested he had not
progressed in career terms at all. In any case, he was clear that this was not the kind
of work that he wanted to do. By chance he met a girl doing a social work diploma
and upon reading the brochure for the course noticed that there was a comment by a
former student who had completed the diploma having come from a Human Sciences
background. The comment set Michael thinking about social work as an option and
coincided with the opening of a secure training centre for young people close to his
home. He applied for a job as a ‘care officer’ and was successful. The experience at
the secure unit was both challenging and salutary, particularly given that it coincided
with the break-up of a relationship and a family bereavement. Working within a
secure setting with young people with a range of behavioural and emotional
difficulties was a stark initiation into working with young people: ‘Whatever I go
through now, I know it can never be worse than what I went through there. It was a
milestone in my life’. The experience of working in the unit made Michael clear that
he wanted to work with young people but in a way that was constructive and
supportive and not just ‘running around the floor and fighting with them all day’.
After a year he successfully applied for a job in a local authority children’s
assessment unit. This work is much more satisfying because he is able to build
relationships with young people passing through the system. He has started up a very
successful angling project for 10-16 year olds. He finds this work deeply satisfying
because ‘you feel like you are making a difference everyday’. After four years at the
assessment unit he is considering moving on, possibly with a view to being an
outdoors activities instructor for young people.
Michael finds his anthropological training in anthropology useful in his current work
in a number of ways. In particular, he has become aware of the extent to which
stereotypes abound in social work practice. This was brought home to him when
working with the children of asylum seekers, about whom various assumptions were
made by other staff. Aspects of Michael’s degree come into effect when he is able to
challenge such stereotypes and ‘dispel some of the urban myths’ that are held about
children from other cultures [for example, an Angolan child was to be excluded from
a trip to the swimming baths because Africans have lower bone density and don’t
float very well]. Michael pointed out that he often finds himself ‘at loggerheads’ with
people who have come into youth work via the social work diploma. In this regard he
was critical of the fact that all his colleagues had ‘done cultural awareness’ but the
result was still a rather simplistic set of attitudes towards cultural difference and the
behaviour it engenders. Indeed, he was in the process of setting up a session for his
team in which issues of culture in relation to people’s perception would be explored.
Michael also commented on the usefulness of IT and research skills in his current line
of work.
For Michael, the experience of studying Human Sciences at Stockton was a very
important one. Not only did it give him practical skills and intellectual insights that
enabled him to break out of a career in retail management, it also provided him with a
network of friends to whom he is still very closely attached.
Case study 2 -- Opening up new avenues
Christine came to University as a mature student with little idea of what anthropology
was but a clear intention that she would complete the degree as a mere stepping stone
to her lifelong ambition to be a primary school teacher or, failing that, a ‘time filler’
before returning to her original work as a nurse in the NHS: ‘… actually thought the
human sciences degree would be more related to the nursing I’d done in the past, but
glad it wasn’t because I would have just stayed on that track’. She was unsure about
the course at first but was pleasantly surprised by what she encountered. She
graduated aged 38 with Human Sciences BA [2:1]. At some point during the degree,
Christine’s horizons were altered and she became interested in community work. On
graduation she took a part-time job with the British Red Cross, working on
community development and new consultation initiatives. The experience gathered in
this post carried her onward and upward into a number of short contracts with local
NGOs addressing issues of community participation/ empowerment and working in
disadvantaged wards within the Borough. This work not only entailed working with
the communities but also gathering qualitative and quantitative data to support
applications for funding applications to National and European sources.
In her current post, Christine works as a development officer in the Democratic
Services Unit of her local Borough Council. This work entails consultation with
community groups and neighbourhood representatives as well as facilitating liaison
and communication between communities, agencies and service providers and local
councillors. A major criticism that Christine expressed regarding her previous
employment was the short-term nature of the work undertaken which made any kind
of planning difficult. The advantage of her present job is that because it has a degree
of stability, long-term planning is possible: ‘before I could never think beyond the
next six months’.
Christine sees the anthropological knowledge and skills acquired on the degree as
having been useful in almost every aspect of her working life. The degree provided
her with the confidence to exercise choice and mobility in the local job market. This
was particularly important where ‘bad employment experiences’ were encountered
and there was felt to be a need to challenge situations that she felt were ethically
problematic: ‘a lot of the work I’ve done is involved with looking at community
identity, other cultures, how people live, and also the statistical research skills where
I’ve been able to look at communities and make realistic decisions. In some
situations I would have just crumbled had I not done the degree course’. She found
participation in ‘analytical discussion groups’, doing presentations and an
introduction to participatory rural appraisal at university particularly useful, as these
are precisely the skills she needs to draw on in her professional capacity as a
community development worker.
Christine would appear to be an excellent example of what the Human Sciences
programme set out to achieve at the Stockton Campus, namely, to attract local mature
students, to introduce them to anthropology and return them to the local employment
market with enhanced knowledge, skills and confidence. Christine also pointed out
that having local graduates working on development issues was important in order to
get away from the prevailing pattern of bringing in people based purely on their local
knowledge and experience of working in areas of disadvantage. She feels that being
able to draw on a more theoretical background and having the ability to apply sound
research skills and critical analysis allows local graduates to add another dimension
to that local knowledge, considerably increasing the effectiveness of community
development programmes. Christine also pointed out that having local graduates
working on local development issues was important in order to get away from the
prevailing pattern of bringing in people with academic qualifications but little by way
of local knowledge or credibility, both considered by her to be vital in effective
community development programmes. In her view, prior to the opening of the
Stockton Campus there were very few local graduates working in Stockton. Now,
however, Christine said that she regularly encounters Human Sciences graduates in
her dealings with social workers, teachers in adult and specialist education and
community development workers.
A further consequence of what might be thought of as a longer term urban
regeneration is that both Christine’s children have gone to University. She feels that
this would not have been the case had she herself not gone when she did. It is perhaps
of further note that one of her children elected to study anthropology at University.
Again this was felt by Christine to have been a direct consequence of her own studies
and the fact that her daughter knew from an early age what anthropology is and what
anthropologists do.
Case study 3 – A means to an end
Nick graduated in 1998 aged 23 with a BA in Human Sciences [2:1]. His university
career began with a false start in that he began an Environmental Sciences degree but
failed his first year exams. He transferred to Human Sciences and began again in year
one. On his own admission, the decision to transfer did not come from a burning need
to study Human Sciences so much as a desire to stay with the friends he had made at
the Campus: ‘I’m really glad I’ve done it but at the time my intentions weren’t the
best’. Once on the degree Nick found that he was interested in the content and as he
commented ‘as soon as I started I thought, this is right, this is good’.
Upon graduation Nick did ‘agency work’ in order to keep his bills paid and to avoid
having periods of inactivity on his CV. A significant development in his career came
about when he took a job as a road safety technician in a local government
department. Even though Nick feels this work is not particularly well paid, he really
enjoys it and particularly the parts where he has to go into schools to do road safety
presentations and organise quizzes. As he pointed out: ‘I’ve waited five years trying
to find this job and now I’ve got it, it’s worth the wait’.
As in the previous two case studies, Nick highlighted ‘learning about difference’ as a
key skill that he had acquired on the course: ‘Working for the local government and
especially in working in the inner city area where I work as it [Human Sciences]
gives you a basic knowledge about all the differences that exist in society and gives
you a head start in dealing with them’ and, later on in the interview, ‘Local
government are really up on equality and understanding diversity and people which is
the main thing we learnt on the degree’. He also identified the confidence that the
course gave him to be able to do the work in schools and to deal with situations he
faces as a local government employee.
Although, Nick is not optimistic about future plans for promotion or career
development he is content with his current job.
Case study 4 – A useful degree to have
Danielle graduated in 1996 aged 21 with BA Human Sciences [2:2]. There followed a
definite low period in which she moved back to her parents’ home and was unable to
secure a graduate level position. However, after a brief period of unemployment she
took a job as an assistant with a mobile phone retailer but, on taking the job, made it
clear to her manager that she wanted to progress above the shop floor. She seized
whatever training was on offer and was able to secure promotion to deputy store
manager and soon after became a branch manager. After that she identified a training
position within the parent company of the mobile phone retailers and thereafter
secured a permanent position as a training manager with a brief for training and
development within the organisation. Thus, she began to focus her ambitions on
becoming a Training and Development Manager.
The degree subject was not thought to have been relevant to her employers although
‘the human element has sparked interest’. Danielle has been able to make some
direct connections between her work as a trainer and her own training in
anthropology. For example, ‘participant observation and people doing things
differently to how they say they are doing them’ struck her as an interesting
connection between her work as a training manager and her anthropology training.
The fact that her degree also contained group work and presentations was also of
practical application in her present line of work. However, the anthropological
content of her degree has not really been of great significance in her work and she felt
that the degree was primarily about ‘opening doors’.
As in the previous case studies, Danielle’s story brings out the ‘default’ setting for
anthropology. It was not what she intended to do but felt that it looked interesting.
She thought it might be more psychological but was pleased to discover that there
were altogether different perspectives involved in the study of anthropology; this she
only realised after she had started the course. She also realised after starting the
course that there was no clear end product or career route. She expressed some regret
over this absence of a sense of application because if it had been clearer then she
thought that she might have gone at her studies with a little more determination. It
turns out that she is only now that she is she making connections between aspects of
the course such as ‘the participant observation stuff’ and her current vocation rather
than these being visible from the beginning. Indeed, after the course Danielle finds
herself passionate about anthropology and an advocate for the discipline both in her
work and outside it.
As for Mike in the previous case study, Danielle’s experience of university was
profoundly transforming. However, this was not simply down to encountering with
an unfamiliar discipline. University was the first time away from home and as she
commented: ‘‘… bonds and friends are made – the social side of it was critical. The
way that the university enabled us all to live together and the strong support we
received to find accommodation meant that those bonds were sealed and stuck
ase study 5 – Endless insight
Tanya graduated in 1995 with a BA in Human Sciences [2:1]. Throughout the degree
her abiding interest was how to relate anthropology to issues of personal
development. Not surprisingly she opted for a career in psychotherapy and has taken
numerous courses since graduating. The rather cerebral and costly pursuit of training
in this field has had to be balanced with the pragmatics of earning a living as a lowpaid
careworker. For Tanya, the study of anthropology was but one element in a
longer-term quest for self-knowledge and spiritual insight applied in the service of
helping others. The degree was seen by her as being crucial to her personal
development and many of the skills imparted, such as the case study method,
interviewing and the management of cultural differences are seen by her as essential
to a psychotherapist’s practice. When fully qualified she hopes to set up in private
practice. In 2001 she met and married her partner who shares Tanya’s interests in
healing and personal development. He is currently undertaking a lengthy training in
acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Case study 6 -- Making your own job
Becky graduated in 1999 aged 24 with BA Human Sciences degree [2:1]. In her
third year she did a dissertation working with children on the theme of ‘North
American Indian culture’. In this work she explored the relationship between white
Canadian and First Nation people in a small village in northern Canada with specific
reference to the concept of ‘difference’. From this experience, Becky developed an
interest in developing links between anthropology and education; what she referred to
as an ‘anthropology for children concept’. Her first venture in this direction was an
attempt to start a business making tepees for ‘living in and playing in’. She obtained
support from the Prince’s Trust and spent a year developing what has gone on to be a
successful business. From this work she began to develop ways of working more
directly with children through workshops organised around the creation of tepees and
head-dresses. The business developed in various directions including the manufacture
of tepees and soon acquired a professional canvas producer [who usually made lorry
tarpaulins] to assist. After two years she decided to move on from the business,
having acquired a lot of practical experience and skills. Indeed, her abilities in
administration and accounting had enabled her to work part-time for a financier. In
time he became interested in her ideas about education and anthropology and offered
to pay her a wage for six months in order to undertake research into products that
might then be made available to children to educate them about other cultures. Part
way into this work, however, she ran into some ‘ethical’ problems as the intention
seemed to be to market ‘human values and experiences’, for example, by distributing
a doll that represented North American Indians. The problem of stereotyping was
partially obviated by developing the notion of a ‘persona doll’; an individual person
rather than a cultural composite. Indeed, Becky was keen to develop dolls for use in
the classroom that had not only a personality but their own individual biography that
teachers might draw on when using the doll in the classroom. With the help of a
lottery grant Becky undertook a series of interviews with people from different
cultural backgrounds, and whose lives were to form the basis of each doll’s ‘persona’.
Reports were produced in relation to each doll and the project was then taken into
schools to be piloted. In the course of this work, Becky came to realise that in order
to take the work further she needed to have a proper training and decided to obtain a
professional teacher training qualification. This she did as a school-based
qualification for which she was paid a wage rather than as a college-based Post-
Graduate Certificate. At the time of the interview she had just acquired qualified
teacher status [QTS].
In her questionnaire return Becky described herself as a ‘multi-cultural education
project co-ordinator’ and it is clear that she wishes to develop this area of expertise in
her new role as a teacher. Her background in anthropology is felt to be crucial in this
as well as her previous roles: ‘… the degree makes you think more broadly about
old and different topics. That always influences what I’m doing. It’s helped me be
more creative and inventive. The philosophical debates I found fascinating. To think
around an argument in different ways helps you later on in life when you’re having to
see things from different points of view and, working with different people, it helps
you to see where they are coming from, or think about different arguments that you
might make for or against something. It helps you understand.’
Becky was a little different from the graduates in the previous case studies in that she
had travelled extensively before coming to University. Nonetheless, she was also
somewhat unclear about the degree would entail and in particular when it came to the
‘theoretical side’.
Speaking of her degree Becky comments: ‘I think it has given me a broad knowledge
– it is quite a competitive market, charity development work, so it is more difficult to
find a relevant job. I have had to create my own’. However, it is clear from her
reflections on her success to date that she is single-minded, a very positive thinker and
prepared to work hard and take chances in order to realise her goals. This orientation
was clearly not just something that emerged from the experience of the Human
Sciences degree but was there from the start enabling her to maximise the benefits of
her university education from the very outset.
Stalled development
In our view, those in this category constitute an intriguing and worrying output of the
Human Sciences programme. On the one hand these students began as a primary
target of widening participation policies. Yet, whilst they appear to have been
relatively successful in their university careers, their degree has done little by way of
advancement and indeed may have had a retrograde effect. This is particularly likely
where the student is mature, has dependents and has to take employment of any kind
as a matter of economic survival. Our survey identified a handful of students who fall
into this category but we know through informal contact with former students that
there are numerous others. It is likely that we will not be able to quantify this
category as they are not only the most difficult to track but also the ones least likely to
respond. A rather more detailed follow-up on the consequences of ‘widened
participation’ as a result of this and other degree programmes would therefore seem to
be imperative
Case study 7 - Landing below the line?
Nick had worked most of his life in the chemical industry before he experienced
redundancy and the need to retrain. He also experienced a ‘messy divorce’ which set
his self-confidence back considerably. His own assessment of his situation was as
follows: ‘I spent fifteen years working with test-tubes and stuff but none of that was
relating to people so my inter-personal skills were very poor’. He secured a place on
the BA Human Sciences and graduated in 2002 with a 2:1. He was then 35 years old.
After graduating he undertook three weeks teaching English in Somerset and then
tried to gain further experience as a volunteer but he could not find anyone to take
him on. Attempts to move onto TEFL and PGCE courses after graduation proved
unsuccessful. In all of these ventures he felt his age was against him. To his great
disappointment a period of unemployment followed. This lasted for one year when he
took a job as a bacon packer in a meat factory. This job brought him an ‘adequate’
wage but also a great sense of frustration that he was unable to apply knowledge and
experience from his Human Sciences degree. He was somewhat cheered, however, by
the fact that one of his colleagues at the factory had a PhD in marine biology.
Eventually, he was able to get out of the bacon factory when a job came up as a
research analyst examining radio-active samples from oil-wells. He needed no further
training for this work as he already had a degree in chemistry [previously obtained
over nine years on day release from his employer] and the new work was not very
different from his earlier work in the industry. However, he now found himself
working on precarious short-term contracts with his only hope of stability and
promotion lying in a further qualification in chemistry.
In his current work there is little context for his knowledge of anthropology to find
any outlet whatsoever. He finds that the practical skills gained on the degree such as
doing presentations, writing skills and group work are invaluable. The degree also
gave him a great deal of confidence in himself but he is disappointed that much of
what he studied on the degree has no outlet in his current career. Despite or
conceivably because of his current situation, Nick described his period studying
Human Sciences as ‘the best three years of my life’. Fundamental, to this evaluation
of his experience are the friends he made and the experiences he had [notably ab
Erasmus visit to the Czech Republic] which he hopes will stay with him throughout
his life.
Biographical factors and employment.
Consideration of the timelines and comments made elsewhere in the survey point to a
range of variables that influence each individual’s progression into employment and
the levels of satisfaction they subsequently experience. These observations highlight
the importance of considering the pattern of career development over the longer
period and moving beyond a simple, linear, ‘degree = employment’ equation [cf
Jenkins et al 2001]. The experience of these graduates reveals a complex interaction
between personal and employment variables rather than an attempt to separate out a
pure strain of biographical experience to do with employment. Rather they weave
together education, life and work in more complex narratives of the life-course.
Likewise, many of the mature students in the sample were in employment before
coming onto the degree and already had useful configurations of qualifications and
practical experience. A degree enabled them to re-enter their previous profession but
with knowledge, skills and confidence to advance into more senior positions. For
example, former nurses were able to return to the NHS to take up more senior
positions in nursing, training or administration. From a career perspective, we are
dealing in such cases with an ongoing narrative of personal development and not one
that starts with graduation. It is essential that this fact is recognised in the
construction of careers advice and support for mature students. This should not only
be done in acknowledgement of the adult-learner but also because a well-crafted
narrative of this experience is vital when it comes to these individuals presenting
themselves as fully rounded graduates.
However, it would appear that finding the right niche after graduation, particularly for
younger students, was something that took rather longer to identify and settle in to
than they anticipated. Indeed, the transition from under-graduate to potential
employee was one that most found extremely stressful. As suggested earlier, the
timelines of many students exhibited a post-university dip; a period of dissatisfaction
following close upon the ‘high’ of graduation. The ‘dip’ is characterised by periods
in part-time and unstable jobs. What is crucial here is that some students in effect revisit
their degree and re-evaluate their position as a prelude to moving forward in a
more planned way. Others seem unable to do this and remain locked in sub-degree
level employment. Difficulty managing this transition may explain why it is that some
of the graduate destination surveys indicate such high levels of unemployment.
Understanding the move into employment may take longer than the one- year snapshot
such surveys usually report. As one person put it: ‘it has taken me four years to
find this job but, hey, I have another 37 years to enjoy it’.
But, having survived the ‘dip’, the accounts of our respondents indicate improvement
in circumstances. Yet, it would seem that very few are able to settle into a permanent
‘job for life’ after leaving university and there is much evidence of movement in and
out of post-graduate courses and qualifications. We see how, in line with Jenkins,
Jones and Ward [2001], the value or otherwise of the degree is constantly re-assessed
in line with changing circumstances. Consistent with these observations is a need to
‘keep the cv moving’. Some jobs provide structure in which to do this but where this
is not the case, there is an added strain upon the individual’s working life; it is not just
a question of working but continually striving to re-create oneself at the same time.
Although the graduates in our sample have tended to move between occupations and
activities, most have stayed in the North-East – probably not a common pattern for the
average 21-year-old graduate, but one that appears to be particularly suited to the
circumstances of mature students who have dependents and, perhaps, stable, longterm
Conclusion: Anthropological knowledge and skill in relation to employment.
In this report, we have attempted to sketch in some of the connections between an
undergraduate degree in anthropology and subsequent experience of the world of
work. Our findings report a powerful endorsement for the pedagogical strategies
adopted within the Human Sciences Programme in general as well as in relation to the
more specific approaches to applied anthropology. However, the data also enable us
to draw some broader inferences about anthropology and employment. Given the rise
of vocationalism in the evaluation of degrees, both by consumers and funders alike,
further critical reflection on such issues is vital.
In most cases, it would seem that respondents to this survey have deployed their
anthropological knowledge and skills to very good effect. The survey would suggest
that the Human Sciences programme provides an excellent mix of practical skills and
intellectual content, and an all round preparation for a range of occupations and future
careers. This could no doubt be said of most other anthropology degrees in the UK,
but falling rolls would tend to suggest that this message is not getting through to
students contemplating their degree options. It is striking to note that all those
interviewed had but a hazy conception of what the study of anthropology actually
entailed but were pleasantly surprised at the breadth and richness of the subject.
Ironically, this observation is made at a time when there is every indication that what
one might have thought of as the typical constituency of anthropology is opting for
more individualistic and quantitative disciplines such as psychology. Furthermore,
there has been a significant shift towards explicitly vocational courses such as teacher
training, computing, business studies and health-related courses. All of this is
regrettable in that the considerable promise that anthropology offers to students is
perhaps being obscured by a rather short-sighted and ill-conceived drive towards
overly pragmatic vocationalism.
Clearly there were people in the survey who felt that a qualification in Human
Sciences was not specific enough for their employment needs and that, on reflection,
they ought to have taken a specifically vocational course, such as a certificate in
teacher training or a diploma in social work training. These people could get into
their chosen vocation but probably had to take a more circuitous route [more time,
more debt, slower progression once in post, etc]. With hindsight Human Sciences
may therefore not have been the ideal route for these students, although this
realisation may only have dawned in the later stages of the course. It is also important
to note that there are others who seem to have used Human Sciences as a very
effective launching pad into teaching, social work or even medicine. Although the
extended route may produce a more rounded professional it does not sit easily with
the need to deal with financial pressures arising from student debt, housing costs and
general subsistence.
For the majority of students, Human Sciences as a general programme providing a
considerable breadth of knowledge and skills seems to have worked extremely
effectively. For students who came onto the programme with only vague notions of
what they wanted to do when they finished their degree, it provided the means to
explore and identify intellectual strengths and weaknesses and, furthermore, to put
these in the context of realistic career options. For mature students in particular, to
think of life post-graduation was very difficult, given the struggle there has usually
been to get on to the programme in the first place. For these students, intellectual
capability appears to unfold alongside confidence and a sense of direction. A further
factor in this regard is that local mature and working class students were often only
vaguely aware of the range of jobs that are open to graduates with a good degree,
irrespective of the discipline. In summary, it might be said that the majority of
students had only a very sketchy idea of what they would be doing on a Human
Sciences programme but were generally very pleased with what they did do and found
it useful in their subsequent employment in ways that they could not have imagined.
ills (2003:21) refers to the ‘tendentious presumption that graduates will carry their
anthropological identity with them’. Our data, preliminary as the analysis currently is,
suggest that in a variety of different ways such an identity is indeed carried on by the
graduate, and may even be developed in creative ways that could not have been
predicted during their undergraduate course.
Coda: Future research.
A piece of research such as this offers some answers and insights but inevitably raises
further questions. When it comes to developing a more incisive analysis of the
changing relationship between anthropology and its applications outside of the
academy, three areas have struck us as particularly important to explore:
1. The anthropology degrees currently delivered in the UK each have their own
histories and identities and consequently applied anthropology is treated very
differently in each. At one end of the spectrum application and practical skills are
viewed as a serious distraction from the real business of communicating the
anthropological canon. At the other end of the spectrum attempts are made to
combine this canon actively and creatively with practical skills and reflexive
pedagogy [also cf. Mascarenhas-Keyes and Wright, 1995]. However, debates about
skills and application tend to assume that anthropology is uniformly delivered and
therefore the process of grafting these elements will also be a uniform procedure. We
would suggest that research be undertaken to test this assumption and, furthermore, to
produce a typology of departments in relation to skills and application. Crucially,
such an exercise would not be about ‘league tables’ and ‘stars’ but the basis of a
more co-ordinated response by the discipline of anthropology to the demands that are
currently being placed upon it; a considered justification for producing
anthropologically aware graduates with different mixes of knowledge and skill.
2. The assumption of uniformity in the delivery of all academic disciplines in the UK
is currently being driven by the Benchmarking exercise and other attempts to
introduce commensurability in the delivery of higher education. It would thus seem
that advocacy of diversity in the styles of delivery of anthropology goes against one of
the more fundamental quality assurance initiatives of recent times. However, in
recognition of the diversity that exists within anthropology, the Benchmarks were
explicitly constructed to fit the existing topography of the discipline rather than
shaped according to any one version of it. What then becomes the interesting question
ishow different departments are reading the rather open-ended checklists that
characterise the anthropology Benchmarks and, furthermore, how these then play out
in academic review.? Research which explores how the elements of the
Benchmarking exercise that deal with practical skills and application are interpreted
in practice is a necessary corollary to that suggested in item one above.
3. In understanding the relation between anthropology and employment, the most
important variable of all is the student’s experience - before, during and after
university. A more comprehensive programme of research into biographical details,
such as social and educational background, the decision to take anthropology at
university, degree experience and subsequent career moves, is fundamental to any
attempt to improve our understanding of the relationship between anthropology and
its wider applications.
Antikainen, A., Houtsonen, J., Kauppila, J. and Huotelin, H, Living in a Learning Society: Life
Histories, Identities and Education, London: Falmer Press, 1996
Benn, R. and Fieldhouse, R. ‘Government policies on university expansion and wider access, 1945-51
and 1985-91 compared’, Studies in Higher Education, Vol 18, No 3, 1993, 299-313.
Bernstein, B. 1971 Class, Codes and Control. Vol.1, Theoretical Studies Towards a Sociology of
Language. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul
Beynon, H, Sadler, D. and Hudson, R.1994 A Place Called Teesside: A Locality in a Global Economy
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,.
Coleman, S. 2002 ‘The New Higher Education? Learning and Teaching in a
Knowledge Society’ (C-SAP Conference, Aston University, 11-12 January 2002)
Anthropology Today 18(3):26
Coleman, S. and Simpson, B. 1999 ‘Unintended Consequences? Anthropology,
Pedagogy and Personhood’ Anthropology Today 15(6):3-6
Coleman, S and Simpson B 2004 Knowing Doing and Being: Pedagogies and Paradigms in the
Teaching of Social Anthropology. In D. Drackle and I.R.Edgar (eds) Learning Fields (Vol 2):
Current Policies and Practices in European Social Anthropology Education. Oxford: Berghahn.
Husén, T. The Learning Society, London: Methuen, 1974.
Husén, T. The Learning Society Revised, Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1986
Jenkins, Alan, Jones, Lynn and Ward, Andy 2001 ‘The Long-term Effect of a Degree on Graduate
Lives’ Studies In Higher Education 26(2):147-61
Mascarenhas-Keyes, Stella and Susan Wright, (1995) Report on Teaching and Learning Social
Anthropology in the United Kingdom. Social Anthropology Teaching and Learning Network
Mills, David 2003 ‘Quantifying the Discipline: Some Anthropology Statistics from the UK’
Anthropology Today 19(3):19-22
Pink, S and Fardon, R. 2004 Applied Anthropology in the 21st Century: Comment. Anthropology Today
Richardson, S. 2001 A Marriage Made in Heaven or a Marriage of Convenience' - Which Comes
Closer to Describing the Relationship Between the
University of Durham and its Campus at Stockton?". Unpublished MA Thesis, Durham School of
Sillitoe, Paul ‘Time to be Professional?’ Anthropology Today 19(1):1-2
Simpson, B. 1997 ‘Anthropology, vocationalism and the undergraduate curriculum’ Anthropology in
Action, Vol. 4 No 2, 23-5.
Wright, S. 2004 Politically Reflexive Practitioners. In D. Drackle and I.R.Edgar (eds) Learning Fields
(Vol 2): Current Policies and Practices in European Social Anthropology Education. Oxford:
Knowledge and Practice Course Details for
* nb this is a much earlier version of the course and is provided here to give an
impression of our approach to applied anthropology at that time. In 2002 the
course underwent a radical transformation in terms of its content and it was also
extended into a 20 credit module. Details of the new version can be obtained
Health and Human Sciences/Human Sciences
Course Tutor: Sandra Bell, Iain Edgar & Bob Simpson.
University of Durham, Stockton Campus
First Semester, 2000-01
Knowledge and Practice
“An anthropology degree is about more than just academic study,
it is an encounter with oneself, one’s own ideas, prejudices, takenfor-
granted attitudes and values”
University of Lampeter Prospectus, 1997
Preamble: Some Frequently Asked Questions.....
1. “Why Knowledge and Practice?”
The potential and actual applications of anthropology in everyday life are
stressed throughout the Human Sciences and Health and Human Sciences degrees.
This module looks at applied anthropology in more detail, and invites you to reflect
on how you will put the insights gained from your degree to use in your future life
and career. In other words, how to turn ‘knowledge’ into ‘practice’.
2. “How do I turn anthropology into a career?”
Employment opportunities for applied anthropologists are growing. However,
it is not always easy to locate these opportunities. As the video you will see in the
first week illustrates, anthropological training and experience are applicable in many
work settings but require anthropologists to stretch their imaginations to envision
career possibilities that may not sound like traditional anthropology. You will need to
be able to look at a situation and recognise the possibilities for you to offer
anthropological skills, and then be able to help others recognise the fit. It is not
enough to present yourself as an anthropologist and expect someone to realise that
you have skills and approaches they need. Whether in research, employment or in
your community, you will have to relate your experiences and education to situations
that you might not think of as anthropology. Where an employer is concerned, you
may have to learn how to adapt your language and the way in which you present
yourself to others so that you can be seen and heard as a suitably qualified and able
The boundaries between and among cultures and societies are becoming less
clear, technology is allowing ever-greater interaction amongst people, and our own
culture and society is becoming increasingly complex. With these changes, the skills
that anthropologists have are of critical value to society, and anthropologists are
finding their way into industry, government, communities and organisations of
various kinds. Interesting and exciting job options for anthropologists will continue
to grow as long as we provide useful products in return. The utility of our products is
determined in large part by our ability to work as members of teams, our disciplined
use of an array of anthropological tools, and our skill at reporting our findings in a
timely, accessible and clear manner.
The use of interpersonal networks is a traditional anthropological tool. In
planning a career as an applied anthropologist, you will need to cultivate networks
with other practicing anthropologists. Joining the organisation Anthropology in
Action is one of the many ways to begin this process. Subscription gives you your
own copies of the journal Anthropology in Action and notices about and access to the
many events organised by the association and its members (membership form
attached). You might also consider joining discussion group - AnthropologyIn You should also consider carefully developing a mentor in
your chosen field.
3. “If I am interested in working as an applied anthropologist, what further
qualifications do I need?”
While practicaly applications are stressed throughout, Human Sciences and
Health and Human Sciences are essentially non-vocational degrees. Therefore you
may find you will need to obtain further qualifications in order to maximise the
opportunities available to you. What you need will depend on the expectations of
employers, the regional work setting, and your own entrepreneurial skills. Although
the number of positions for which a degree in anthropology is required or recognised
as a qualifying credential is increasing all the time, there are relatively few jobs apart
from university teaching or anthropological museum work (and precious few of
these!) that explicitly require a degree in anthropology. For the most part, you will be
competing with people holding various kinds of degrees from various places, and it is
important to emphasise why anthropology as a discipline, and the Human Sciences
degrees at Stockton in particular, are most relevant to the job in question. In
considering what the degrees have to offer, you should think particularly about the
transferable skills and experience you have amassed here. These include IT, team
work, project work and the breadth of knowledge and intellectual flexibility the
degrees require for success.
You may well need to consider going on to work for a postgraduate
qualification where you can take the skills and orientation of your undergraduate
degree in anthropology but acquire new skills and a sharper ‘career profile’ for
potential employers. There are now a number of Masters level degrees in different
areas of applied anthropology in the U.K. (see below), but you should also consider
qualifications in non-anthropological disciplines such as health studies, human
resource management, occupational psychology, law, counselling or an MBA. In
appraising the quality of a course, you should look into the number of contact hours
offered, the number of lectures, classes and other activities specific to postgraduate
students, and find out where graduates have gone on to, and how many have got jobs
(i.e.outcomes). For work as a consultant in (say) international development or medical
institutions, a PhD can be an important asset for which a masters level qualification is
a useful stepping stone. In addition to your degree, your particular skills and
experience play a critical part in the recruitment process. Work experience (paid or
unpaid) can also be crucial, and it is worth gaining whatever experience is relevant to
your chosen career path wherever and whenever you can.
4. “Are there universities offering courses in applied anthropology?”
Many academic departments offer training that will help prepare you for
careers in applied anthropology. However, there are now a number of universities in
the U.K. which offer postgraduate training especially designed to offer this kind of
preparation. However, you should consider whether your future career interests are
best served by taking this route rather than a more specifically vocational qualification
in a non-anthropological subject (see above). A good course in applied or practicing
anthropology will be characterised by more elaborate training in social science
methodology, good working relationships with academic programmes in relevant
cognate fields (e.g. development, medicine, education, agriculture and forestry,
business, public health, nursing), academic staff actively involved in practicing
anthropology, and a strong commitment to internships and practical experience.
Often courses emphasise a specific area of work such as medical anthropology or
development anthropology. In the case of full-time postgraduate courses, funding
may sometimes be obtained through a research or professional body.
Finally, back to the point at the start of this preamble. Human Sciences and
Health and Human Sciences at Stockton, and this module in particular, have been
recognised as pathbreaking in the ways that links between ‘knowledge’ and ‘practice’
in anthropology are made at undergraduate level. (See the 'Report on Teaching and
Learning Social Anthropology in the United Kingdom'. This report, published in
1995, gathered data on the state of the art in anthropology teaching in the UK:
Durham/Stockton features regularly and prominently throughout!)
Knowledge and Practice
Aims and Objectives
‘Knowledge and Practice’ aims to give you an understanding of the scope of applied
anthropology, and the chance to reflect on how you can best incorporate your Human
Sciences education into a career. In other words, to enable you to turn your
aspirations into reality by transforming knowledge into practice. The practical,
academic and ethical issues involved in doing this will be considered. The aim is to
give you instruction and ‘hands-on’ experience in a variety of career-development
strategies, such as setting objectives, doing a ‘skills audit’ on yourself, identifying and
analysing the qualifications needed for a particular career path, writing application
letters, compiling a CV, developing interview strategies, and developing and using
networks. You will also hear about the applicability of anthropology to a number of
different work domains, and develop practical skills relevant to some of these. In
addition, you will have the chance to meet practicing anthropologists and find out
how they see the relevance of anthropology in their careers.
By the end of the module, you will have:
1. An understanding of the history and current scope of applied anthropology, and a
better appreciation of the ways in which anthropological knowledge can be used.
2. Spent time clarifying your own motivations, aspirations, values and goals, and
seen how the skills and approaches of the Human Sciences/Health and Human
Sciences degrees, and other experiences, can be harnessed to your own career path.
3. A better understanding of the range of career paths open to you, and the
requirements/qualifications for them.
4. A carefully crafted, up-to-date CV and other materials of use in the development
of your career.
5. Experience in writing application letters, and advice on doing well at interview.
6. Other practical experience relevant to the work domain, such as project planning
and evaluation.
7. A better appreciation of some of the problems involved in the practice of
anthropology outside academia, and ideas for dealing with these.
Learning Strategies
The module will be based on eleven lecture/talks (some of them by guest speakers)
and seven double classes/workshops. Lectures take place every Tuesday afternoon
from 2-3pm. Classes take place on Tuesday mornings from 11-1 during the first
seven weeks of the semester. The classes are large-group format, but will frequently
be broken down to enable practical activities to be carried out individually or in small
Information about assessment for the module follows the course schedule (below).
Contacting Your Tutor
The most reliable way of contacting tutors is by e-mail (,, and . All staff have office
hours when you can meet to talk about work or can meet at other times by
appointment. Lists of contact numbers at both UDSC and Durham Main Campus are
available from Alison Hunt.
The fax number at Durham is 0191-374 2870.
The Careers Advisory Service at Stockton Campus: Sharon C Richardson is the
careers adviser responsible for the management and delivery of the Careers Advisory
Service at Stockton Campus. The service currently consists of three staff; careers
adviser, information Assistant (Jane Pattison) and student information assistant
(Nilufa Ali). It is important to note that the service is part of the Durham University
Careers Advisory Service.
The Careers Advisory Service at Stockton offers:
· access to wide ranging information on different careers, employers and postgraduate
· an opportunity to discuss your ideas with a qualified and experienced careers
· access to vacancy information;
· employer presentations and sessions;
· a computer aided careers guidance system (Prospects Planner) This can provide
you with a list of possible careers based on your interests and abilities.
· an Careers Information Fair (Career Focus 2000) which will give you the chance
to speak to people who may eventually employ you.
· an email careers enquiry line -
Also, as a student of the University of Durham, you have access to the presentations,
careers fairs and facilities at Durham. Check the noticeboards for details or call in the
Careers Advisory Service for more information.
The Careers Advisory Service can be found in the Information Resource Centre. You
can contact Sharon Richardson by email
or telephone (5380 if calling from within the campus or 01642 335380).
Week 1 (Tuesday, 3rd October)
Classes: Introduction to the Module - aims and objectives
Video: ‘Anthropologists at Work: Careers Making a Difference’
Discussion - what do you want from the module? How do the
HS/HHS degrees fit in with the rest of you life?
Reading: Bolles ‘What Color is Your Parachute’
Coleman and Simpson, Discovering Anthropology (Section 8:
Anthropology and Careers)
Croft, C. ‘Time Management’ (especially Chapter 3, ‘Objectives:
Where do you Want to Be?’)
Donnan and Ruane, Social Anthropology in Ireland. (Chapter 2,
‘Social Anthropology: selected careers’).
Ferraro, Trevathan and Levy, Anthropology: an Applied Perspective.
(Chapter 3: ‘Applied Anthropology’).
Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity (Chapter 3, ‘The Trajectory of
the Self’, pp. 70-88) - looks at concern with ‘lifestyles’ and ‘life
plans’ as reflection of modernity in western world.
Hopson and Scally ‘Build Your Own Rainbow’
Miller and Morgan
Omohundro, Careers in Anthropology
NAPA, ‘Anthropologists at Work: Responses to Student Questions
About Anthropology Careers’
Simpson, Anthropology, Vocationalism and the Undergraduate
Teaching and Learning Anthropology Network: Career Pathways and
Wallman, Contemporary Futures (Introduction) - the future, and our
sense of a place in it, as a cultural construct.
Wulff and Fiske, Introduction (looks at ways and means of translating
anthropological ‘knowledge’ into ‘action’)
Lecture: Introduction to the Careers Advisory Service (Sharon Richardson)
Reading: Information in Careers Library relevant to your needs, e.g. AgCAS
booklets (and web pages) such as ‘Mature Students: the Way
Forward’, ‘Postgraduate Study and Research’ and the leaflets produced
by the Durham Careers Service itself. Career Pages from the quality
Assignment: Career Description, Lifeline, Career Anchor, and Character
Sketch Exercise for classes next week, and materials for ‘Job Search’
Week 2 (Tuesday, 10th October)
Classes: Discussion of career description, lifeline, career anchor, objectives and
character sketch exercises. What do the HS/HHS degrees have to offer? Qualities,
values and motivations you have, and what you need to get for particular career paths.
What is a skill, and where do skills come from?
Lecture: the work commenced in the classes will continue on into the lecture slot.
Assignment: Continue ‘Skills Check’ and ‘Job Search’ exercises, and Action Plan
Week 3 (Tuesday, 17th October)
This week will be slightly irregular in that we are hoping to fit in an extra class. The
reason for this is that Josh Levene is currently working in Kosovo and only here for a
short stay. Iain Edgar is running these sessions and will be in touch to discuss which
slots will be best to run the extra class. Ideally we would like this to run on from
Josh’s afternoon session.
Classes: Careers Advisory Service at Stockton Campus: a workshop run by Sharon
Lecture: Participatory Methods and Approaches – Plenary (Josh Levene)
Assignment: Compile a CV and write an application letter for next stage on your
chosen career path for next week’s class.
Classes: Participatory Methods and Approaches (Josh Levene)
[Josh is a HS graduate who has subsequently worked in a number of projects in the
South Pacific and on Teesside which have involved using PRA methods and
Reading: Cornwall and Jewkes – What is Participatory Research?
Chambers – Whose Reality Counts (chapter abstracts)
Website –
Week 4 (Tuesday, 24th October)
Classes: Discussion of skills check and job search exercises.
Peer review of first drafts of your CV and application letter.
Assignment: Revise your CV and application letter in the light of peer review, and
put it and other exercises together in Careers Portfolio for submission at classes in
Week 6.
Lecture: ‘Human Sciences and Me’ - HS/HHS graduates tell their stories.
Week 5 (Tuesday, 31st October)
Lecture: Anthropologists and Development (Bob Simpson)
Development often entails bringing together those who have considerable
amounts of power and resources (e.g. governments, agencies, institutions) and
those who have not. Good intentions can easily be misconstrued, misplaced
and mis-interpreted if implemented without sensitivity and good
communication. The skills of anthropologists are often used in these contexts
to facilitate planning and appropriate development. In this lecture we will
look at some of the basic principles of development in relation to
Reading: Chambers, Rural Development: Putting the Last First. Especially
Chapter 8, ‘Practical Action’.
Cernea, ‘Sociological Knowledge for Development Projects’.
Conlin, ‘Anthropological Advice in a Government Context’. In Grillo
and Rew.
Green, ‘A Short-Term Consultancy in Bangladesh’. In Green (ed.)
Practicing Development Anthropology
Griffith in Pottier
Messerschmidt, ‘Conservation and Society in Nepal: Traditional Forest
Management and Innovative Development’. In Little et al
(eds.) Lands at Risk.
Overseas Development Administration, Guide to Social Analysis...
No classes
Week 6 (Tuesday, 7th November)
Class/lecture: Sandra Bell will run a three hour workshop based on her own research
in to the Wetland communities of the Danube Delta. You will be given a text and a
variety of images and asked to work in groups to devise a research programme on the
questions raised regarding ecology, community and development in these areas. (nb
you may wish to use this example as the basis for your summative assessment).
N.B. Your Careers Portfolio is due at these classes
Week 7 (Tuesday, 14th November)
Classes: Career Opportunities in the NHS: a workshop run by Marie Johnson
(Durham University Business School). Health rationing exercise - communication
and decision-making skills.
Lecture: Anthropologists and Organizations (Bob Simpson)
Reading: Wright, Chapter 1
Week 8 (Tuesday, 21st November)
Lecture: Anthropology and Social Work (David Stanley, University of Northumbria,
and Iain Edgar)
Reading: Edgar, ‘The Contribution of Anthropology to Social and Community
Work Education and Practice in the UK’.
deRoche, ‘Empathy and the Anthropological Imagination’
Week 9 (Tuesday, 28th November)
Lecture: Applied anthropology in historical perspective (Bob Simpson)
A brief history of the fascinating (and at times deeply suspect!) applications of
Reading: Partridge and Eddy ‘The Development of Applied Anthropology in
America’ in Eddy and Partridge.
E. Chambers, ‘Applied Anthropology in the Post-Vietnam Era:
Anticipation and Ironies’.
Grillo, ‘Applied Anthropology in the 1980s: Retrospect and Prospect’.
In Grillo and Rew.
Kohn, ‘A Text in its Context: F.E. Williams and the Vailala Madness’
Week 10 (Tuesday, 5th December)
Lecture: Anthropology, Group Process and the Work Place. (Iain Edgar)
Readings: Edgar, ‘The Group Context’ in Dreamwork: Anthropology and
the Caring Professions. ‘Basic Groupwork’ by Tom Douglas, ‘Effective
Groupwork’ by M Preston Shoot, ‘Feminist Groupwork’ by Bulter and
Week 11 (Tuesday, 14th December)
Lecture: Knowledge and Practice - tying up loose ends - evaluations. (Iain Edgar)
N.B. Your project is due by 4.00pm on Wednesday, January 10th.
Formative Assessment:
Careers Portfolio
Your work during the first six weeks of the module should be gathered together and
submitted in the form of a Careers Portfolio. This should include the exercises
completed during the module such as the Career Description, Lifeline, Career Anchor,
Character Sketch, Skills Check, Action Plan and Job Search. Further information
about all these exercises will be given in lectures and classes. It should also contain a
draft version of your CV and an application letter, and a short piece of written work
describing what you have done so far for your summative project, together with a
bibliography. Please fill in an evaluation form and return it with your Careers
Portfolio (at the end of this handbook) Failure to enclose an evluation form will delay
the return of your Careers Portfolio.
‘Skills check’ exercises - assessing your skills and strengths based on the lifeline
exercise, incorporating personal experience, roles, jobs and individual qualtities. This
will be done in general, and in relation to a particular career.
‘Job search’ - identifying a potential job/career/research pathway, and alternatives,
and analysing what is needed for it/them. Obtaining information of qualifications and
experience needed for different stages along identified path. You will find it useful to
'comb' careers pages from ‘quality newspapers’ and journals, to use jobs centres, the
University Careers Service, Careers Fairs, and information obtained direct from
potential employers/institutions, their own noticeboards and your own
Application Letter - An application letter should explicitly link your skills to the
requirements stated in the job, work or research description. (NB - you may wish to
identify a 'real' opportunity or the application may be an imaginary, but plausible,
1. A final copy of your CV and application letter, with comments on
previous versions from other course participants (class week 4).
2. Information on jobs/courses or whatever you have gained in your
investigation of particular career paths.
3. Results of exercises carried out during module.
4. Other materials you feel relevant to your career path development,
particularly a description of your summative project.
A ring-binder would be an appropriate way to present this material. Please do not put
anything you want marked into individually leaved plastic wallets.
Summative Assessment:
Summative assessment will be based on a 2000 word project + CV.
The aim of the project is to enable you to go into some aspect of a future career in
more detail, bringing in both theoretical literature from within anthropology as well as
other materials gathered together during the module. The project should be
accompanied by a final version of your CV.
The provisional criteria for the assessment of your project are as follows:
Style/Presentation - 50% of total
- Pretend your project is part of some real application process (as your CV
undoubtedly will be one day). Marks will be scythed away mercilessly for poor
grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Content - 50% of total
- The project should show evidence of your active engagement with, research
into and reflection upon a topic related to careers, the world or work of future
study, including relevant literature (to be presented in a bibliography). [NB
your CV will not be assessed for content, only style/presentation]
The project should be geared to your own needs and aspirations, but linked to relevant
literature both within anthropology and outside. Topics that might be suitable for a
project include the following:
The changing world of ‘x’ [where ‘x’ could be a career of your choice, from
accountancy to zoo-keeper. To be effective, such a project should focus on changes
that have taken place in all aspects of this career over the past ten years or so. How
can anthropology be applied to understand and enhance a career in this area?]
A proposal for postgraduate research in ‘x’ [This could be on an actual application
form, e.g. for the Economic and Social Research Council]
A funding proposal for a project in your local community [Again, this will be most
effective if the application process of a real funding body, e.g. the National Lotteries
Commission, has been followed]
In order to gain the most from this module it is important you read as widely as
possible from the readings given, as well as those in the Careers Service and from
other sources. You should start perusing the careers/jobs/education pages of quality
newspapers (such as the Guardian, delivered to Stockton campus library) from Week
1 and writing off for further information about career paths which interest you.
The Stockton campus library subscribes to the journals Anthropology in Action and
Practicing Anthropology. Durham library has the journal Human Organization.
There is also a lot to be found (and much worth ignoring) on the World Wide Web.
Prospects ( offers a good starting point.
Key: _ Book(s) or journal in Stockton campus library.
_ Photocopies in Stockton campus library library, one on reference.
DL Books available from Durham Main Library
CS Book available from the UDSC Careers Service
* Books ordered for UDSC Bookshop
_ Ahmed, A. and C. Shore (1995) (eds.) The Future of Anthropology: its
Relevance to the Contemporary World. London: Athlone.
_ Albery, N. (1992). The Book of Visions: an Encyclopaedia of Social
Innovations. London: Virgin.
DL Almy, S. (1977). Anthropologists and Development Agencies. American
Anthropologist, 79: 280-292.
DL Bastide, R. (1973). Applied Anthropology. London: Croom Helm.
_ Bate, S.P. (1997) Whatever Happened to Organisational Anthropology? A
Review of the Field of Organisational Ethnography and Anthropological
Studies. Human Relations, 50(9): 1147-75.
DL Berreman, G.D. (1968). Is Anthropology Alive? Social Responsibility in
Social Anthropology. Current Anthropology, 9(5): 391-396.
_* Bolles, R.N. (1999). The 1999 What Color is Your Parachute: a Practical
Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
[1996 and 1998 editions in Stockton library].
_ _ Bruner, E. (1990). Tenure Narratives. Anthropology Newsletter,
vol.31, No 6, September, p.48.
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Knowledge and Practice Survey
Questionnaire and Letter
[date as post mark]
We are seeking your help with a survey that aims to find out what use graduates in
Human Sciences have made of their anthropology training in their subsequent careers.
Attached you will find a short questionnaire which we hope you will find time to
You will, no doubt, already have received questionnaires sent out by the Alumni
Office of the University about general graduate destinations. However, these provide
only a broad picture of career paths. The purpose of this survey is to get a more
detailed impression of how your experience of university life has helped you after
graduation. Given that you were a student of Human Sciences and would have
studied social and biological anthropology, we are keen to find out from you what
your experiences have been and where, if at all, a Human Sciences degree has fitted
into life after your degree. Such information is useful to us in continuing to develop
the Human Sciences programme and its orientation to careers and employment.
Attached you will find a short questionnaire which we hope you will find time to
complete. If you would like to talk more informally about your university
experiences and subsequent career then please complete the section at the end of the
Many thanks for your help and co-operation.
Yours Sincerely
Bob Simpson and Simon Coleman
Human Sciences Graduate Questionnaire - May 2003
University of Durham, Department of Anthropology
In this questionnaire we would like you to reflect back on your time at University in order to
identify which parts of your degree have proved particularly helpful to you.
1. To give us some idea of how things have gone since you left University please fill out the
time-line overleaf. Mark the major career and personal developments on a continuous
line starting at the point where you left University. Mark roughly when key events
happened and take the line up or down according to whether you were experiencing
‘highs’ or ‘lows’.
2. What job are you doing now?
3. Would you say you are satisfied with your current position in financial terms?
Yes _ No _
4. Would you say you are satisfied with your current position in personal development
Yes _ No _
5. Would you say you are satisfied with your current position in terms of future career
Yes _ No _
6. Would you say that a Human Sciences degree was useful in enabling you to secure
Yes _ No _
7. Were employers generally interested in the subject of your degree?
Yes _ No _
8. If you had your time over again would you do the same degree?
Yes _ No _
9. Which parts of the course have been most useful to you in your working life?
[1= not useful at all – 5= invaluable]
1 2 3 4 5
General social skills acquired as being part of university
Appreciation of scope and complexity of human diversity
Computing skills
Opportunity to carry out in-depth study of an academic
Report writing
Basic research skills
General confidence building
Communication skills
Numerical and statistical skills
Awareness of other cultures and societies
Working in groups
Are there are other aspects of your experience at university that have been particularly useful
that do not feature on this list? If so, what are these?
10. As part of your course did you take the level three Knowledge and Practice module?
Yes _ No _
If yes, please complete question 11, otherwise proceed to question 12.
11. One of the aims of this module was to provide guidance and support when considering
how to apply your anthropological knowledge to a future career. To what extent did the
module achieve this (1 = not at all, 5 very much so):
1 2 3 4 5
Gave useful ideas for applying my degree after graduation
Gave me a critical understanding of the nature of applied
Provided useful practical information when it came to searching
for jobs to apply for.
Enabled me to reflect upon my personal development
Inspired confidence to use my degree in the world of work.
Gave me practical skills that increased my chances of successful
job applications [eg cv, letter writing, self-presentation].
Were there other things in the Knowledge and Practice module that you found helpful which
are not listed above?
12. If you did not take the Knowledge and Practice module, do you now wish that you had?
Yes _ No _
13. Are there any ways in which you think that the vocational support given to Human
Sciences students through modules at Stockton could be strengthened?
Yes _ No _
14. Finally, it would be helpful if you could provide us with some general information about
· Year of graduation? ……………………………………
· Age at graduation? ……………………………………
· What was the title and class of your degree?
· Do you live in Teesside _, the North-East of England _, Scotland_, elsewhere in
the UK _, Europe _,or overseas _?
· Sex? male _ female _
If you would be happy for one of us to contact you to discuss your responses further please
give us your phone number or e-mail.
Phone number:
e-mail address
Time Line
Left University in ………?
Telephone follow up to non-responders.
Did you receive a copy of the questionnaire
If yes:
Was there any particular reason you didn’t reply?
What is your particular employment situation now?
On a scale one to ten how satisfied would you say you are with you r employment
situation? [+ comment]
Was a Human Sciences degree useful in helping you secure employment? [+
If you had your time over again would you choose to do Human Sciences?
If no:
Would you like to fill in a questionnaire?


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