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The Worrying Future of Creative Arts Degrees

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

The Creative Arts encompass a wide range of disciplines, from music and theatre to graphic design and animation.

From these types of degrees, students can gain the knowledge and skills necessary for success in their chosen field, whether it’s working as a musician, an animator or a graphic designer. With the rise of technology, creative arts degrees are becoming even more relevant as they provide students with the tools they need to stay competitive in today’s digital world. However, some of these degree courses may be targeted in an attempt to decrease student loan debts.

The UK is home to some of the world’s most renowned universities that offer a wide range of courses and subjects in the field of creative arts, from theatre and film studies to fashion and design. Nevertheless, the government is considering plans to reduce the number of students in England studying such courses as they believe graduates take home lower salaries and are therefore less likely to be able to repay their loans.

Outstanding student loans reached £140bn last year and the Treasury has indicated that it will attempt to tackle the debt issue by limiting loan offers for those looking to study specific subjects and plan to combat the negative return from creative art subjects.

When choosing to study a creative arts degree we are often warned of the financial implications of pursuing a creative career.

Even from personal experiences, most of us here at Imagineerium were advised against an artistic route from our high school career advisors, which is shocking to think considering we span over a number of generations and have an insurmountable amount of talent and skills in-house.

The universities regulator has already confirmed the 50% cuts to the arts subjects funding, which has caused an outcry amongst students and those already working in the sector alike. However, this further setback is only going to make the industry suffer more and has even drawn an angry response from national university bosses. Prof Steve West, president of the vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, has said: “trying to pick off any subject areas would be arbitrary and inevitably fuelled by prejudice.”

There is also the concern being raised of tying student loan eligibility to secondary school grades, which will make university and creative degrees less accessible to underrepresented groups. The Department of Education has proposed that students who do not achieve at least a C grade in English and Maths would be barred from taking out Government-backed student loans. A third of pupils do not make this threshold annually and the proposal could affect 4,800 students.

However, whilst funding is being cut and grants decreased for the arts, Universities are growing rapidly and are huge money making entities. All of these cuts being implemented and proposed, means that universities will have more space to take on international students and receive the large sums of fees they pay. This could be detrimental not only to the creative sector, but also to the nation as a whole with less people being able to afford to go to universities if they desire to follow an artistic route. With this in mind we pose the questions, should universities help to support the creative courses and offer more subsidies for those looking to study artistic subjects?

According to UCAS data, total applications to university places increased by 4.9% in 2022, with 2021 seeing the application numbers for creative degree applications rise to their highest level in a decade. With more than half of young people now going into higher education, the demand for degree courses is increasing each year, and there is definitely space, want, and need for creative arts subjects.

This planned restriction to numbers of students specialising in artistic courses will undoubtedly lead to fewer people working in the creative industries and in time companies will struggle to find staff, causing business to decline and vanish. It is clear to see that this particular government seems to have minimal engagement with cultural and creative events and therefore see no need for funding, however, we know the importance it holds for society as a whole.

By segmenting science and technology from arts and design, disciplines that combine together to solve complex problems, we are diminishing the possibilities for the future of successful businesses.

A creative arts degree can give you the edge in the competitive job market and help you stand out from the crowd.

With a creative arts degree, you learn valuable skills such as problem-solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, imperative tools for every role in every sector. These are skills that employers look for in potential candidates and having them gives you an advantage over other applicants. Furthermore, having a creative arts degree can open up new career paths and opportunities to explore different fields of work. You can use your knowledge to pursue a career in design or media production, but also a role in travel and tourism, hospitality, engineering, or even start your own business. With the fast development in technology, adaptability is crucial and it could be argued that with a creative arts degree, you will be better equipped to succeed in today’s ever-changing job market.

We also know that creative businesses play a very special role in the strengthening of a country’s economy and shaping businesses from all sectors.

It is clear to see that the UK relies heavily on the creative sector, which appears to have steadily grown post pandemic. The cultural and creative industries contributed £115 billion to the economy in 2019, corresponding to 6 percent of GDP. So surely this means we need to nurture the creative industry, as well as the creatives in work and those pursuing. However, if statistically you are worse off going to university and studying a creative study then surely there needs to be more vocational opportunities out there and paid internships to support this?

There are many fantastic programmes out there helping people find their way into creative careers from Big Team CIC to Sky and many more. Here at Imagineerium we offer internships yearly and have loved having young creatives onboard who embrace the opportunities and broaden their skillsets. We asked one of our most recent interns, Kirstyn, some questions about her experience interning for a creative design agency in Bristol - Embracing Opportunities: Interning at Imagineerium.

Even with these other means of opportunities and ways of entering a creative career increasing, we are still saddened to hear of the cuts to a number of these degree courses, as well as funding for individuals to be able to study them.

This battle of cost and funding, which we have witnessed happening with already established creative businesses and individuals is now happening even before the initial funnel into the industry.

In a recent blog we explored how the arts communities are being “run out” of areas of cities that they redesign and develop. By turning abandoned buildings and segments of cities into creative hubs that become popular and “THE place to be” they turn into the sector’s own worst enemy. In our blog Turning Abandoned Buildings into Cultural Hubs we discuss the way in which these repurposed places attract an array of artists who make the town or city "cool", which drives gentrification. The knock-on effect pushes artists out of the areas to make way for developers and those able to afford heightened rents that become out of artists reach.

Final Thoughts

Pursuing a creative arts degree can be a rewarding and challenging experience. It requires students to develop their creative skills, understand the fundamentals of artistic expression, and manage their time effectively. Those with creative degrees often come out with additional skills that are crucial for all business needs, including project management, versatility, and adaptability.

Navigating the job market upon graduation can sometimes be tricky and students must also consider the financial implications of pursuing a creative arts degree as well as how to balance their studies with other commitments. But to cap admission for creative arts degrees or reduce student loan eligibility due to the choice of a creative arts subject is a crying shame to the future of our fast developing world.

We believe that it is imperative that the creative sector continues to diversify and grow, ensuring that everyone is given the chance to excel in whichever field they are skilled in and not just those from privileged backgrounds. Governments need to recognise the importance of creativity and should support what it provides to the system…

Imagine that!



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