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Prorector: You can make money off the Humanities

Under the banner »We use thinking - We mean business«, prorector Thomas Bjørnholm offered his view on the business potential of the Human Sciences

The Humanities don’t contribute to the economy, say some. They are not supposed to. After all, studying the Humanities has value in itself.

Prorector at University of Copenhagen Thomas Bjørnholm, however, believes that the Humanities should be looked at like any other branch of science. And in so, it should contribute to the economy.

At a panel discussion Thursday 24 March, Johan Roos of the Copenhagen Business School, Roskilde University’s prorector Hanne Leth-Andersen, and Thomas Bjørnholm each offered their view on the business potential of the Humanities.

»It is a sort of consensus discussion. We are all on the same side, we would all like more funding, etc.,« the moderator opened the debate. »But we are here to discuss if the Humanities can contribute to the economy,« he added before passing the mic to Thomas Bjørnholm.

Humanities are stigmatised

»Why ask this question at all?,« Bjørnholm responded. »The framing of this debate is rather defensive. Why doubt the value? It is unfortunate the way the Humanities are stigmatised as unprofitable«.

Humanities play an increasingly large role in our life, including our business life, Bjørnholm explained. He used obesity as an example of a social and economic problem that can be sufficiently addressed only if insights from the Humanities and Social Sciences are taken into account.

»My iPhone here is another example,« Bjørnholm explained. »Apple has taken it a step further than, let’s say, Sony Ericsson, and has created products that build on a deep understanding of our human relationship to technology.«

Read more about Bjørnholm’s Apple devotion here

According to Bjørnholm, interdisciplinary work is the key to success in both examples. »In terms of appealing to businesses, put your money on interdisciplinary studies,« Bjørnholm encouraged the attending students.

The students mean business

The ‘Suitable for Business’ conference that hosted the debate is itself an interdisciplinary project. It is organised by a group of students from University of Copenhagen, Roskilde University, and Copenhagen Business School.

»We share an ambition to use our skills and knowledge in practice,« one of the organisers, Olav Hesseldahl, said in his speech. »We listen to the demands of the business world. But we would like them to listen to us as well.«

Next week, from 29 March to 1 April, everyone interested is invited to both listen and be listened to. ‘Suitable for Business’ hosts a number of presentations and events around Copenhagen, including a case competition (see box on the right) with students from all over Scandinavia.

Read more about the initiative and see the full programme here

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