Philosophy enrollments are increasing – a little – in Canada

Although the total number of undergraduate philosophy majors in Canada has been declining since 2010, a recent increase and some anecdotal evidence have University affairs reporting that “philosophy has a moment”.

There has been a small increase in the number of Philosophy majors, from 4,656 to 4,723 during the period 2017/18 to 2018/19, reports Ian Coutts. This is the latest period for which there is data, but Coutts reports some developments in particular schools, including:

  • 17% increase in majors in philosophy at the University of British Columbia since 2009
  • 23% increase in the number of Honors and Major Philosophy students at the University of Alberta between 2014 and 2020
  • 16% increase in majors in philosophy at McGill University between 2014 and 2019
  • 12% increase in the number of students taking philosophy courses in the past year at Athabasca University

Some schools have not seen an increase in the number of philosophy students, such as the University of Calgary and the University of Montreal, but have remained stable during a period of general decline in humanities enrollment.

The article does not clarify whether other humanities disciplines at Canadian universities are also experiencing a recent increase in enrollment, so we do not know if the current “moment” for philosophy is unusual among the humanities. Coutts, who has a master’s degree in philosophy, thinks there is something particularly appealing to students today about philosophy:

More than any other subject of humanity, more than perhaps any other academic discipline, philosophy seems to correspond best to what might sound like the seemingly incompatible concerns of today’s youth: the desire for material security, which is become much more difficult over the past few decades and deep anxiety about the future of our world.

It may be that the increased efforts of philosophy departments to combat stereotypes about the career prospects of philosophy students (with information such as this or this or that or that), or perhaps the increased visibility of the philosophy in popular culture (TV, podcasts, etc.) or help the image of philosophy among students, but this is speculative at this stage. Professional market research (“For philosophy ?!” Yes.) Might be helpful.

Related: Facts & Figures About The Philosophy Departments Of The United States


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