Higher education | Is an arts degree useless?

Arts subjects are being pushed out of education, as the focus turns to a more ‘academic curriculum’ (forgive the eye roll). It starts at school, and extends to university, where league tables focusing on graduate earnings and employability prospects damage the perceived value of studying subjects like design, history of art, and english.

One student recently told me that her family were asking her what she was ‘going to do’ with her liberal arts qualification, implying that she had made a terrible choice and should have studied law or engineering instead. So, this blog post is for anyone questioning if their arts degree is a waste of time (and money), because IT IS NOT USELESS.

In fact, the value is multi-layered, across personal and professional levels. Here are 5 reasons why your arts and humanities degree is totally worth it.

1. There is intrinsic value to an arts degree

There was recent outrage by over 100 leading contemporary artists at the news that arts and creative subjects will be excluded from the new English baccalaureate. Turner Prize winners, including Rachel Whiteread, Grayson Perry and Anish Kapoor, penned the open letter, which focuses on the personal benefits of arts education:

“We are writing to express our grave concern about the exclusion of arts and creative subjects from the new English baccalaureate, or Ebacc, for secondary school children, which we believe will seriously damage the future of many young people in this country. Young people are being deprived of opportunities for personal development in the fields of self-expression, sociability, imagination and creativity”.

2. Creative industries are crying out for graduates

It’s crazy that the arts are being cut because the UK is currently a world leader in the creative industries, which contributed a record £92billion to the economy in 2017. Developments in 3D technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are creating exciting new opportunities which demand the skills that students learn from arts degrees, including: creativity, communication and analytical skills, as well ‘soft skills’ like teamwork and time management.

A recent report by creative branding agency, Michon, recognises the importance of investing in future creative talent, as it will benefit both the creative industries and the wider national economy. If we don’t, then there will be a skills gap.

3. A range of employers value arts and humanities grads

A wide range of employers value and hire arts graduates. Sarah Mitton is a Neighbourhood Investment Manager (Youth Engagement) at Clarion Housing Group in Birmingham. She has taken on numerous paid interns and graduates studying arts degrees over the last few years, based on their transferrable skills, as opposed to an academic specialism.

“Here at Clarion Futures (the charitable trust of Clarion Housing Group), we look for grads who are passionate about improving the lives of our residents and can use their initiative to bring our strategy to life through hard work, innovation and team working. Some of the skills we look for are: presentation skills, organisational skills, being IT and social media savvy and communication skills. The ability to empathise and look for new opportunities is also really important”.

4. Arts grads are interesting, and that’s important

I help students studying a variety of arts and humanities subjects as they apply for internships and graduate jobs. It is the students who can tell a compelling story about why they chose to study their degree, what they have learnt, and why this is important, that are successful. You can’t do that if you don’t care about the subject you chose! I recently interviewed an intern who spoke eloquently about the themes which she had discussed during english seminars and the texts she had enjoyed; I thought to myself – this is someone with an enquiring, open mind and I would enjoy working alongside her. She got the internship!

5. Your bookcase will be beautiful

I have an impressive array of books on my bookcase following my combined arts degree: romantic poetry, classical tragedy, and art theory (alongside Harry Potter). It’s always a talking point at parties! On a serious point, I still use these books and the knowledge I gained from them as a freelance writer. My arts degree was essential for what I do now and has led to a hugely fulfilling life (and career).

So, be proud of everything you have achieved and learnt during your arts degree, as it is of huge value, both to you and to others.

I’ll leave with you one of my favourite quotes:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

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