The humanities doctoral curriculum and the Public Humanities in the UK

Sandro Eich*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


With some exceptions, the primary model of humanities doctoral education in the UK is still largely based on the master-apprentice model. While this model has proven fruitful for developing new generations of humanities researchers to succeed in academic contexts, it is clear that this career trajectory can no longer be the only one for which a doctorate prepares early career researchers. With employment opportunities in higher education drastically declining as a result of a sector-wide shortfall in university finances (O’Hara 2024), humanities PhD researchers have to be able to show how the specialist knowledge they acquire during their doctoral studies translates to skills useful outside of the confines of the university. To this end, this presentation will pose a provocation: I argue that we need to think in more specific terms about ‘the doctoral curriculum’ as an alternative to the master-apprentice model, and consequently identify how to implement training in transferable skills into this curriculum. The emergent field of the Public Humanities, with its extensive focus on collaborative research both between teaching staff and students, as well as between universities and the wider communities of which they are part, foster crucial skills in collaboration, scholarly communication, and creative events management. Unlike many institutions in the United States the UK has not yet institutionalised the Public Humanities more widely (e.g., as degree programmes). Against the assumption that collaborative, communicative, and leadership skills are adequately developed in the ‘hidden doctoral curriculum’ (Elliot et. al 2020), I argue that building elements of the Public Humanities into the humanities doctoral curriculum could represent an opportunity for both institutions and PhD researchers to reimagine doctoral education in the UK. Addressing the question ‘What Comes Next for the Shape and Composition of Academic Programs?’, the presentation will specifically focus on two aspects of how to implement such training: reenvisioning how we measure success in humanities doctoral education, and building a humanities doctoral curriculum that recognises the value of combining specialist knowledge with employability skills without feeding into narratives of the ‘low value’ of humanities degrees (Butler 2022).

Butler, Judith. 2022. “The Public Futures of the Humanities.” Daedalus 151, no. 3 (Summer): pp. 40-53. Elliot, Dely L., Søren S. E. Bengtsen, Kay Guccione, and Sofie Kobayashi. The Hidden Curriculum in Doctoral Education (Palgrave Pivot Cham, 2020). O’Hara, Glen. ‘Saving Humanities’, Research Professional News, 25 February 2024,, accessed 5 May 2024.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 8 Jul 2024
EventEnhancing Student Learning Through Innovative Scholarship - University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jul 20249 Jul 2024


ConferenceEnhancing Student Learning Through Innovative Scholarship
Abbreviated titleESLTIS
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CitySt Andrews
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'The humanities doctoral curriculum and the Public Humanities in the UK'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this