Restricting access to creative art courses – is it too late to consider, now the damage has been done? Have arts students been mis-sold to?

According to this article on the inews website “Creative arts courses are ‘not economically worthwhile’ – universities should restrict access to them, think tank argues”.

The articles states that ‘Creative writing, drama and music are among university courses deemed ‘low value’ – which most certainly needs a bit of unpicking. The gist of the article is that creative courses do not churn out people who will earn high salaries, therefore will never pay back their student loans, which is a strain on tax payers. Clearly their only measure of ‘value’ is economic, which is deeply depressing. But I can see their point, we shouldn’t be wasting anyones money, and if our economy does not respect creatives or pay them fairly, as compared with other professions, we should consider why that might be.

Maybe we should look back to the late 1980’s/early 90’s, when the government began to charge fees, as well as double annual intake onto university courses. I know this well, because I applied and secured a place on a degree course and was delighted to be selected. However, during the summer before my first year began, the university was advised to double its intake – resulting in many people who had been turned down for selection being invited to join the course anyway. Worth mentioning that no extra space was provided, and no extra staff. Just double the students. Studio space was reduced massively, indeed my studio in the 2nd year was in the caretakers bungalow near the gate – there simply was not enough provision for so many students at such short notice. The fine art degree course admission numbers doubled again the following year. And so it went on……resulting in the market being flooded with arts graduates very fast.

So education became monetised, just like every other valuable aspect of the welfare state. I shan’t go on about all those things here,  because we have watched the NHS, the rail network, the education system being brought to their knees, the evidence is all around us.

Which is why I feel motivated to write this. How can they now turn around and say that arts graduates aren’t an efficient part of the system, because they don’t earn sufficient money to justify their education? Who is guilty of what here?

Ironically, the issue of limiting numbers IS something I would agree with, if it means that students get more tutor time and studio space on their courses, more teaching, more lectures. Because at present there is not enough money in the semi-privatised FE system to deliver as well as the lecturers would like to. And not enough space for fine art students to rotate an easel!

We certainly have been mis-sold creative degrees, maybe there should be a pay-back scheme for all those students, equivalent to PPI. I’m sure that artists would greatly appreciate that – they could even pay back their student loans, which will never happen unless they are helped, due to most having below minimum wage status.

The article suggests that  “Institutions that rely on the provision of such courses are exploiting taxpayers who are ultimately liable”.

My concern is that they are exploiting creative young people who are skilled, talented and worth nurturing, who are core to civilisation. Our government is exploiting everyone by making education, particularly creativity, a commodity and not a necessity.

Published by carolyn black

I'm an artist and also commission contemporary art in unusual locations. As a producer, I fundraise, curate, project manage and deliver projects. I'm also a writer and film-maker.

2 thoughts on “Restricting access to creative art courses – is it too late to consider, now the damage has been done? Have arts students been mis-sold to?

  1. Yes I totally agree and have just battled with staff at my daughter’s school over the beginning of this issue. At Bournside School in Cheltenham which was known for its Arts status they have cut art lessons by an hour a fortnight. We are choosing her options and needed to book to see her art teacher for her parent’s evening. To our fury there was no option at all to see any art teacher. Several emails to the Art Department and Deputy head and it appears that the art teacher is not available on that evening. I find this hard to believe and feel as this sends out a very negative message to other parents and pupils considering Art GCSE as their option. In fact it might be helpful if I could forward your article to those concerned so they can understand my upset.


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