Two Out Of Three Arts Graduates ‘Don’t Think Degree Is Worth £9k Per Year’

October 2, 2016

Just a third of arts graduates polled by the National Union of Students believe their degree was worth the money.


A study carried out by the union also claimed that graduates who had studied arts at university went on to experience the lowest levels of employment and poor pay.


The results have prompted the NUS to call on the government and higher education institutions to work together in tackling the "poor graduate employment outcomes" of arts students.


The survey of around 520 graduates in England who left university in 2015 – the first cohort to graduate under the new £9,000 per year fees system – was carried out earlier this year.


For the purposes of this report, arts subjects were defined as including drama, dance, music, fine art, design, cinematics, crafts and imaginative writing.


It found:


• Just 37% of respondents thought their degree was worth the fees they paid.
• Those working in the arts were found to have the lowest levels of employment, with 42% working full-time and 15% part time.
• Just under 10% of respondents were self-employed, while 6% were engaged in unpaid work.
• Around 16% said they were unemployed or looking for work.
• 43% of those working full-time in the arts earned less than £15,000 a year.


The report, called Double Jeopardy, also found that arts graduates were statistically more likely to be worried about their student loan debt.


Last month, several leading drama schools including Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Rose Bruford College said they would be increasing their fees, in line with a new £9,250 per year maximum announced by the government.


Previous NUS reports have condemned rising tuition fees for higher education, and the body has this time urged institutions to take heed of the fact that "high fees cannot be sustained for much longer", warning of the effects it will have on students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.


It added: "Institutions and the government must also work together to tackle the poor graduate employment outcomes of students in the arts."


The report acknowledged that while there were courses within the bracket of creative arts that have strong links with the industry, arts degrees as a group have lower than average employment rates and smaller earnings than other areas.


"This is a major concern for arts graduates and for higher education in general, as many graduates from these programmes will not see any financial returns from their degree and will not recuperate the significant cost in tuition fees," the report said.


The students were surveyed roughly six months after graduation, with 52% of total graduates working full-time on permanent contracts.


When looking at the total graduate response, 8% were unemployed or looking for work, a quarter of whom said they were looking in the creative arts and design sector.


The employment figures for arts graduates were lower than any other subject area, with both medicine and education graduates recording zero unemployment.


Arts’ students satisfaction with course fees was also in stark contrast to medical graduates, of whom 81% thought their degree was worth the cost, and those graduating from degrees in STEM subjects (science, engineering, technology and maths), where 58% thought their course was worth the money.


When looking at salary, the median earnings for all disciplines except medicine fell within the £15,000 to £19,000 bracket, compared with the 43% of those working full-time in the arts earning less than £15,000.


NUS vice president for higher education Sorana Vieru said the "deeply concerning" results highlighted a need to dispel ideas that arts degrees were less useful than other subjects.


"That's simply false, as there are fantastic opportunities in the creative industries, but the demand for these jobs outstrips supply. Therefore it's important for institutions to highlight to both students and employers that arts degrees offer a range of transferable skills and experience as well as invaluable economic and social benefits."


She added that unless there was change within attitudes, "high fees and debt will put many students off arts courses, because they will believe that their investment will yield poor returns".


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