A new report, “The Decline of the English Department,” authored by Pope Center director of policy analysis Jay Schalin, documents changes in English degree requirements, course offerings, faculty research, and enrollment. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s highly regarded English department receives special attention.
Throughout much of the 20th century, English departments were the crown jewels of the humanities. Exposure to great literature was often considered essential for students expected to assume lead roles in business, law, government, and society.
Today, English departments have lost their position at the center of the American university. Enrollments have diminished or remained stagnant during a period of tremendous growth for universities in general. Much of the evidence suggests that the discipline itself may be the source of the decline.