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The Value of Arts in Society

3 April 2019
Author: The Place

Shocked with the devaluing rhetoric concerning arts degrees used in the recently published IFS report, we reached out to our colleagues across the industry and drafted up a repsonse to reflect our firm beliefs and conviction:

In response to the recent IFS report claiming that “creative arts degrees cost the taxpayer 30% more than engineering degrees and are among the most expensive for the public purse”, as published by The Stage, The Independent and TSE on 7 March 2019, we would like to state our different point of view.

As a higher education institution within the arts sector, we believe that creative arts degrees provide critical skills for future work forces, contribute to economic growth and make an invaluable contribution to society.

We equip our students and graduates with skills such as critical thinking, communication and creativity, that are among those most valued by businesses and employers across all sectors of the economy. The Nesta Report Horizon 2030 predicts that as creative roles are more resistant to automation than other sectors, these skills will become even more valuable, with future employers placing a high premium on talent that combines advanced cognitive skills such as originality, active learning and systems thinking, strong social and communication skills – the very hallmarks of creative work.

Alan Bishop, Chief Executive of the Creative Industries Federation says "A rhetoric that devalues creative education, whether in schools, universities or other institutions, threatens the success of the UK as a whole. Judging the contribution an individual makes to the UK solely on the salary they receive is limiting and wrong. Within the creative industries, hundreds of thousands of people with fulfilling, varied careers are making a vital contribution back to society. Indeed, many individuals choose to take roles that do not command huge salaries because they believe in the importance and impact of the work that they are doing.”

The conclusions of the IFS report imply that there are no significant creative career opportunities, whereas Nesta reported that general growth in the numbers of those employed in the arts and cultural sectors (2011 –2016) shows it is the fastest growing sector in the UK economy. Employment has increased by more than 25 per cent in the last five years, almost three times faster than the UK workforce overall.

The conclusion that degrees such as arts, humanities and social sciences are failing to contribute financially to society is misguided. Creative Industries Federation data shows that in 2017 our creative industries were worth £101.5bn. The creative economy accounts for one in 11 jobs across the UK and employs 700,000 more people than the financial services industry.

Apart from economic value alone, it is our firm belief that the social sciences, humanities and creative arts contribute to society in ways that cannot be measured in financial value. Defining the value of a university degree on future earnings alone is a dangerous approach that fails to recognise these wider positive impacts on our culture and society.

Clare Connor, CEO of The Place and Principal of London Contemporary Dance School sees an even greater risk in the devaluing rhetoric used in the IFS report ‘The Place with its School, London Contemporary Dance School has, like many institutions in the sector, achieved a world-leading status. Our artists and alumni reflect the absolute intersect between access and excellence, demonstrating artistry both in global and UK contexts alongside social and artistic mobility, regardless of background – something our government and the Office for Students are desperately striving for. Why therefore, would you wish to dismantle that achievement and contribution which will surely diminish our status on a global stage at the very point where we need to be reaching out to build new partnerships?

The recent IFS report suggests “diverting people from low-value courses towards better higher education or technical education options.” It is of course fair to be transparent with students about future earnings prospects. However, if we judge the contributions and value of a person on the amount they earn, we undermine the contributions of artists as well as teachers, nurses, care workers and other crucial benefactors of society.

Andrew Hurst, Chief Executive of One Dance UK comments "The suggestion that creative arts degrees, including dance, are not amongst the “most beneficial to society” is deeply concerning to us given the important contributions made across numerous key issues, including economic growth, but beyond the economic impact, creative arts subjects produce future generations of creative thinkers critical for the country’s future economic success."

We believe creative arts, humanities, languages and social sciences provide critical skills as well as economic benefits and are part of the rich fabric of our society and make a positive contribution to all our lives.




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