Humanities in a Digital World: Progress Update

The ‘Humanities in a Digital World’ project began in September with the aim of finding out what digital skills Humanities students need to enter the current job market – and to think about how we can provide them here at Exeter. The first stage of the project was data-gathering, which was done with the help of two interns from the Student Campus Partnerships scheme. Here one of our student interns, Libby Jones, reports on our progress so far:

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Libby Jones, Student Intern on the project

‘Having established as a team the aims of the project, we got on to working! We knew initially that we would write two surveys – one aimed at Exeter Humanities graduates and the other aimed at employers of Exeter Humanities graduates, both with the objective to discover the most useful digital skills for today’s workplace.

We decided to focus first on the survey for the graduates, which we sent out via the Humanities alumni newsletter in mid-November. Trying my best to keep it both short and still informative, I drafted a five-minute survey which would principally identify the digital competencies the graduates had used since leaving Exeter, and any digital training they wished they had received during their time here.

Once that was complete, we set our attention on the employers’ survey, from which we wanted to ascertain the skills they most wanted to see in today’s graduates, and whether universities are doing enough to ensure their students obtain them. I worked with Helen Birkett, one of the project leaders, and Steve Wallers from Employability and Graduate Development to identify the best employers to target, and after finding a time that best suited everyone, Steve kindly agreed to email out our employer’s survey to his contacts.

Then, all that was left to do was wait for the results to come in …or so it seemed! After realising that the number of respondents was looking much lower than we had initially hoped, we decided to ask other employers via LinkedIn as well as students completing postgraduate degrees to share their experiences with us. This proved to be a fantastic decision, and the data collected from these two groups turned out to be really useful in gaining a deeper insight into the digital skills most relevant for today.

Once all the data was in, my fellow intern Hasnul began to compile a report which showed that, generally, alumni and postgraduates would have liked to see more training given about data analysis and web development during their time as undergraduates.

Being a student researcher on this project, I very much enjoyed seeing the project go from an aim to a realisation, and being part of the data-collecting process. Knowing that the work being completed on this project will go on to shape future teaching at the University is incredibly exciting and I can’t wait to see the results when this phase of the project is taken forward.’

Now that stage 1 of the project is complete, it’s time to begin stage 2. This involves monitoring some digital skills training sessions provided by the Digital Humanities Lab to assess how much training students need and thinking about the ways in which this training might be provided most effectively in the future, e.g. through online learning etc. We will also continue to analyse the data from our surveys, including conducting follow-up interviews with some of their participants – again with the help of student interns. It’s great to be working with people drawn from the very group who will benefit from this research – and to get their insights on our work as we move the project forward.

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The Digital Humanities Lab, University of Exeter (Photo by Estelle Caine)

The ‘Humanities in a Digital World’ project is led by a team of three scholars from the department of History: Helen Birkett, Richard Ward, and Sarah Jones. If you are interested in this project and would like to get in touch, please e-mail Helen (



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