The total number of full-time undergraduate arts and humanities degree courses in the UK fell by 14% between 2006 and 2012. Or such is the headline arising from a dubious new report, Choice Cuts from a trades-union, released today.

Ever skeptical of socialist flim-flam, I took a closer look at the report’s figures.

I saw that the figures come only from a sample, not from a comprehensive tracking carried out during these years. The section of primary data analysis for Art & Humanities starts “In the sample studied,”. So it’s not a comprehensive study.

Then it struck me that the so-called “arts & humanities” category used seems very lumpy, since it is deemed to include degrees in Languages (specifically French, German, Chinese, and Latin) and even Business Studies (see page 18 of the report). In “arts and humanities” the samples only came from these areas:

Business studies; English studies; Classical Greek studies; Latin studies; French studies; German studies; Chinese studies; History; Philosophy.

Even there, it appears that only a subset of courses have been surveyed.

Languages have been in decline since the mid 1990s due to schools avoiding teaching them under Labour’s targets culture. And I hear that the moribund discipline of Business Studies is apparently deemed about as exciting and relevant as a bad cheque by actual business people. One thus has to wonder if the report’s foregrounding of these subjects has skewed the overall headline figure. Chinese studies have likely been affected by the dip in overseas students due to both the recession and educational reforms in China. Recruitment of overseas students to German studies may have been affected by the economic strength of Germany. Philosophy, Latin, and Classical Greek seem doomed to do badly in any recession.

Given this selective marshalling of the Nine Horsemen of Course-pocalypse, is seems a marvel that the trades-union has only found an overall 14% dip in such courses.

But where were the creative arts and crafts degrees? They’re not there. I found that the sample used doesn’t actually include what any normal person would call arts degrees at all. So… Business Studies is included, but the creative Arts are left out of “the arts and humanities”? Dubious. If I had a shredder, this report would be going in it.

Doubtless there has been a dip in the overall number of courses offered. The report spotlights that the number of all types of undergraduate degrees on offer in the West Midlands between 2006 and 2012 dropped by 32.6% (in the sample examined). One can also see an apparent decline of History across the UK, although it’s a subject that’s broadly stable in the West Midlands. But overall I’d be a little skeptical about taking the figures presented in this report, especially those on the so-called “arts and humanities”, at face value.