Grayson Perry crit­i­cises lack of di­ver­sity on art de­grees

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - Seeta.bhardwa@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Con­tem­po­rary artist Grayson Perry has ex­pressed con­cern about the low num­bers of stu­dents from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds study­ing arts de­grees.

Turner prizewin­ner Mr Perry, who is chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of the Arts Lon­don, told Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion that the pre­dom­i­nance of mid­dle-class stu­dents on cre­ative cour­ses was bad for the sec­tor, and sug­gested that higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions needed to make greater ef­forts to widen par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“As a lover of the arts, I don’t like the fact that peo­ple seem to think that the mid­dle classes is the only place where we will get tal­ented peo­ple. It’s not,” he said. “When I was at art col­lege, most of the stu­dents were work­ing class be­cause it was free then. We need a more di­verse spread of art stu­dents.”

Mr Perry sug­gested that, in an era of tuition fees in ex­cess of £9,000 in Eng­land, many work­ing­class stu­dents were put off study­ing art and de­sign be­cause they did not see it as a sub­ject that would lead to high grad­u­ate earn­ings. “I think there is a deep fear...among work­ing class stu­dents [about] the arts... be­cause they don’t see it as a way of mak­ing a lot of money,” he said.

He ques­tioned the grow­ing fo­cus on em­ploy­a­bil­ity and sug­gested that stu­dents should choose to study art if they are pas­sion­ate and driven to cre­ate things.

“Some­times I see peo­ple in an art col­lege and they don’t seem to ac­tu­ally like mak­ing art, they like the idea of be­ing an artist and I want to tell them that that is not the right way round,” he said.

Mr Perry, who is best known for his ce­ramic vases, was speak­ing at the open­ing of the new build­ing of the Cam­ber­well Col­lege of Arts, part of UAL.

Data from the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Sta­tis­tics Agency show that 13 per cent of young UK- domi­ciled en­trants to cre­ative arts and de­sign cour­ses in 2016- 17 were from low- par­tic­i­pa­tion back­grounds, although this is higher than the av­er­age for all dis­ci­plines.

David Crow, UAL’s pro vicechan­cel­lor (stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence) and head of Cam­ber­well, Wim­ble­don and Chelsea col­leges, told THE that there was a con­cern that stu­dents were fo­cus­ing too heav­ily on the em­ploy­ment op­tions of­fered by arts de­grees, and were over­look­ing the cre­ative as­pect.

But he added that, if fewer stu­dents chose arts de­grees, the UK’s cre­ative in­dus­tries could face a drought of new tal­ent, which would have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the econ­omy.

Pro­fes­sor Crow added that most arts stu­dents ended up in ca­reers in the cre­ative in­dus­tries and that there is of­ten a bet­ter qual­ity of life for those who work in the arts.

UAL’s cur­ric­ula now in­clude en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills and aim to teach stu­dents how to source work and di­ver­sify their ca­reers.

The univer­sity has also es­tab­lished a bur­sary scheme with South­wark Coun­cil for young peo­ple in the lo­cal area to come and study at the ren­o­vated col­lege.

Grayson Perry ‘some­times I see peo­ple in an art col­lege and they don’t seem to ac­tu­ally like the idea of be­ing an artist and I want to tell them that that is not the right way round’

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