Humanities graduates equipped with future-oriented skills profile, multinational study reveal

Even though humanities students specialize in a broad set of fields, the transferable skills they acquire during their studies are strikingly similar. Furthermore, a degree in humanities fosters many of the future-oriented skills identified by the World Economic Forum in the Future of Jobs Report 2020.

To facilitate the transition of humanities students into working life, the multinational ASSET-H research team identified the unique combination of skills and competences that in unison make up the skills profile specific to humanities graduates. The skills profile is expected to be a valuable resource for humanities students and HR-professionals alike. It gives students the vocabulary needed to describe their skills relevant to working life and a starting point to reflect on their budding professional identity. In return HR-professionals gain a better understanding of the core-competencies and the unique blend of skills humanities graduates bring to the work force. This allows recruiters to successfully match humanities graduates to suitable work opportunities.

Humanities graduates need to go the extra mile to establish their professional identity and find their niche

“Humanities graduates can find employment in many different specialist roles” Professor Minna Palander-Collin, University of Helsinki remarks, “Because of the wide array of employment options, it is especially important for humanities students to do the self-reflection work necessary to become aware of the skills they bring into the world of work. ASSET-H helps humanities students on this journey by providing them information and tools such as the skills profile.” The University of Helsinki is a partner in the ASSET-H Erasmus+ project and oversees the dissemination of project results. The project will culminate in multiplier events organized in all three participating countries. Humanities students, teaching staff and student career advisers from universities throughout Finland are invited to participate in the event in Think Corner in Spring 2023.

The future-oriented skills of humanities graduates

The skills profile is a practical resource for humanities students. It contains 70 detailed descriptions of skills that are highly transferable to working life. These skills are categorized into six clusters. For example, “I can easily reduce large amounts of information to a coherent, concise whole” as an information & knowledge skill; “I do not hesitate to take the initiative myself to ensure the success of a project” as a communication skill; and “I can interpret facts in their cultural context” as an interculturality skill. “The skills profile reveals that humanities students graduate with future-oriented skills like critical thinking that are necessary in jobs of tomorrow” explains Innovation lead Vivian Roks, Randstad Belgium. The skills profile is available in full on the ASSET-H website in English, Finnish, Swedish, Dutch, Spanish, and Catalan.

Skills profile based on humanities students’ own perceptions

Research indicates that students’ perceptions of and their ability to communicate about their skills determine the quality of their transition to the labour market. ASSET-H skills perception research builds on a pilot study done at KU Leuven in 2016–2017. In the ASSET-H 2021 study, 1306 humanities master’s students and a control group of 231 non-humanities master’s students from three European universities evaluated the extent to which they acquired certain skills during their education so far. In this way the research takes a bottom-up approach, and the result is a self-perception skills profile.

“The outcome of this research phase is successful and exciting in two ways” Professor Eline Zenner says, “Firstly, the ASSET-H profile goes into enough detail to capture not an overall academic students’ skills profile, but a skills profile that is truly specific to the humanities. Secondly, the profile shows stability over the different institutions: the results for each three countries are remarkably alike. This of course strengthens the idea of a shared humanities identity – an identity that is not context-bound but applies to humanities students throughout Europe.” Eline Zenner is the principal researcher behind the ASSET-H humanities skills profile.


ASSET-H is a three-year Erasmus+ project running until August 2023. Research showing that humanities graduates take longer than graduates of other faculties to enter the work force served as an initial call to action. The project aims to enhance the transition of humanities students to the labour market. The project is led by KU Leuven and project partners are University of Leiden, University of Helsinki, and the employment agency Randstad Belgium.

Project outputs are: (1) ASSET-H skills profile for the employability of humanities graduates; (2) Course design training module for faculty teaching staff; (3) Personal development planning tool for students. The final year of the project involves wide-spread dissemination of the project outputs and training sessions for students, faculty teaching staff, student career advisers and HR-professionals.