TAITMAIL Art schools need subsidy to feed creative boom

Good news in Philip Augar’s review of post-18 education in that it calls for £1bn more to be allocated to fix further education and allow tuition fees to be cut from £9,000 a year to £7,500. 

The proposals have the support of… well, no-one in government, it seems, except for the soon-to-be ex-Prime Minister, who commissioned it.
With reservations, the Creative Industries backs the review, coming out of the woodwork twice this week after almost a year of near silence following the door-showing to the former CEO. The first is with its own report on the importance of “public investment”, or subsidy as the historians still call it, and the second with a response to Augar.
You know the figures. This sector is by far the fastest growing in the economy, worth over £100bn a year, contributing £23bn in GVA in the last audited figures (2016), growing at a rate of about 8% a year, employing 140,000 people and paying tax worth £5 for every £1 of subsidy, £2.8bn a year. 
But you can’t have creative industries without art, and you can’t have performative art – in the sense of it having a social and cultural role – without training. And cuts are pushing arts conservatoires along with the other universities into “survival mode”.

The Fed in its report Public Investment, Public Gain (www.creativeindustriesfederation.com) helpfully gives as a list of the celebrity creative performers’ alma maters, going from  rock music to advertising to film to fashion to design: John Lennon,  Liverpool College of Art; Pete Townshend, Ealing Art College;  Ray Davies, Hornsey Art College; Freddie Mercury, Ealing; Charles Saatchi and John Hegarty, both, London College of Communication; John Webster, Hornsey; Ridley Scott, West Hartlepool College of Art;  Mary Quant, Goldsmiths; Vivienne Westwood, Harrow Art School; Terence Conran, Central St Martins; John Sorrell, Hornsey.

Yet art schools are being cut to the bone. Vanessa Wilson of the University Alliance group doesn’t have much hope that Augar’s recommendations will have any stickability, given its provenance and the political situation. “We have real doubts that the money, legislative space or political impetus is there” she mournfully told The Guardian. “Theresa May’s review risks being dead on arrival”.

Creative training has a halo effect, as the Fed’s present CEO, Alan Bishop, says: “The value of creative education extends beyond those working directly in the creative industries. Creative students develop highly transferable skills that lead them to creative occupations across the wider economy, and businesses outside of the creative industries are increasingly calling out for those with creative skills to help drive innovation and growth.

“87% of creative workers are at low or no risk of automation, meaning that creative jobs are future proof and vital if we are to create a robust workforce that is fit for the future.”

The bad news from Augar is that he wants tuition fee loan paybacks to start at lower post-grad incomes and last longer, but more welcome for the sector is that he wants a shift away from universities towards further education (Btechs etc) and vocational training (including apprenticeships) which are so vital to the creative sector.

“Jobs in the creative industries are growing at four times the rate of the UK average, but there are currently around 77,000 roles that are either unfilled or that require additional skills” Bishop says. “Skills shortages and gaps in the workforce threaten the remarkable success that the UK’s £101.5bn creative industries has seen to date.”

The only meaningful thing to do is increase the subsidy with the £1bn Augar is asking for. Even artists can do those kind of maths - can politicians?

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