More and more, a university education is seen as a commodity to be bought and sold. The Government has axed teaching grants and trebled fees, imposing a free market system on our universities. In a market like this, it’s always the poorest who lose out.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are encouraged to choose a degree based simply on how clear the career path from it is, and to see Arts and Humanities degrees as a luxury they cannot afford. The fact that so many of the projects aimed at helping these students get to university are so heavily aimed at vocational and scientific courses exacerbates the problem. This is a big part of the reason that disadvantaged students are still so underrepresented at our universities: fewer than one in five went to university in 2010, compared to more than two thirds of private school students.
At Arts Emergency, we believe that this is wrong. We’re a charity, co-founded by comedian Josie Long, which exists to promote the value of the Arts and Humanities. We believe that these degree subjects are valuable, and that they should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background. A university education shouldn’t just be about getting yourself the highest paying job, it should be about widening your horizons, developing as a person, and studying something you love. We chose our degrees largely because they interested us, and we think everybody should be able to do that. Education for it’s own sake shouldn’t simply be the preserve of the rich.
Furthermore, the idea that Arts and Humanities degrees aren’t valuable is a complete myth. These subjects are incredibly useful, for both individuals and society. Arts and Humanities degrees equip students with the ability to think critically, communicate well, and understand the world around them. In a rapidly changing job market, where a huge number of good jobs simply aren’t accessible via a vocational course, these are vital skills to have. In fact, social sciences graduates are some of the most employable, with higher average earnings than biological science or medical related subjects, and double that of non-graduates. All students deserve to know the benefits of academic university education. The myth that Arts and Humanities degrees are a financial gamble or a luxury is preventing disadvantaged students from improving their life chances.
That’s why we’ve set up Arts Emergency Manchester. We’ve just had our launch with Josie Long, and we’re preparing to run a volunteering project in local schools. We’ll be delivering an eight week programme, with sessions aimed at getting students interested in Arts and Humanities subjects, getting them to engage with subjects like politics or anthropology that they might not have encountered before, and giving them the support and information about university that so many take for granted. But, we need your help! We need people who can help us design lesson plans, organise schools visits, and of course, work with students. If you’d like to help give local students the support and information they need to make informed decisions about University, (whilst gaining some valuable, CV boosting experience) then come along to our second meeting on Wednesday the 19th of February at 3pm in Room 2 of the Students’ Union. We’ll be designing lesson plans giving more information about how to become a mentor, and recruiting a new committee to run the society next year. Find us on facebook, or email [email protected] for more details!