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A new report published by a centre-right think recommends cutting places on university creative arts and design courses


A report called A Question of Degree published by Onward a centre-right think tank, and co-authored by Will Tanner, former deputy head of policy to Theresa May, has recommended that creative arts and design courses offering what the report describes as ‘poor financial return’, should be cut.

Whilst the report acknowledges that ‘education has a value in its own right’ and that ‘earning a living is not the only reason people study’ the authors also go on to say that many young people ‘are being sold a false promise’ and that graduates who had studied creative arts and design courses had earned on average £23,000 per year, 10 years after graduation. The Tory MP Neil O’Brien, co-author of the report, is also reported by the BBC to have said: ‘We should steer people away from the courses that don’t lead to good outcomes.’

Subjects that fall into this category are: fine art, design studies, music, drama, dance, cinematics, photography, crafts and creative writing. The report says that these courses result in insufficient earnings to pay back student loans at a cost to the tax payer. As a result the think tank recommends cutting places on these courses.

The report also recommends that the number of students in post-18 technical education, currently described in the report as the ‘ugly duckling’ of British education, is increased.

The report refers to ‘low economic value’ courses and proposes to make tuition fees conditional on course earnings potential. All of the report’s recommendations would have grave impact on creative arts and design courses offered. The report's recommendations are highly concerning for our member universities and colleges.

In response to the report’s proposals Michele Gregson, general secretary of NSEAD, said: 'The value of work is not only to be measured by the size of the pay packet – studying creative arts and design subjects as well as employment in the creative industries offers benefits that go well beyond high salaries and bonuses.

This report prompts some serious questions about the value that is placed on careers in this sector, and how our creative workforce is rewarded for the vital contribution they are making to the economy – what for example is the gender pay gap in the creative industries? But these key questions aside, the authors of the report have not made any reference to the jewel in the crown of the economy, the UK’s thriving creative industries. Proposing to limit creative arts and design courses will have a long lasting and hugely detrimental impact on our world-leading universities, creative industries and our subject.'


You can read the full report here

09 Jan 2019