“Currently fixed in the crosshairs are the disciplines of the humanities – arts, languages and social sciences – which have suffered swingeing funding cuts and been ignored by a government bent on promoting the modish, revenue-generating Stem (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects. The liberal education which seeks to provide students with more than mere professional qualifications appears to be dying a slow and painful death, overseen by a whole cadre of what cultural anthropologist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs”: bureaucrats hired to manage the transformation of universities from centres of learning to profit centres.”
“The coalition government’s education policies, led by Michael Gove and David Willetts, continued Thatcher’s market-driven reforms, cutting all direct funding to the humanities, creating the cumbersome research excellence framework (Ref), which seeks to audit the academics’ research “outputs”, and overseeing a dramatic increase in the number of staff on short-term contracts. The coalition also put in place the recommendations of the Browne review, the manifesto of philistinism commissioned by the Labour party to map the future of higher education funding in the UK. Written by the former chief executive of BP, it was originally offered as a sop to those who opposed the imposition of £3,000 student fees in 2004. In fact, it marked the final step in the marketisation of our universities, with academics as middle management, pulled apart by the competing demands of their non-academic overlords and the newly powerful “consumers” of their “product” – the students.”
“The implication is clear: we urgently need to explore new ways to promote wellbeing – a theme picked up by John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health in his essay for the Arts Council’s recent publication, Create. He wrote: “Unhealthy people cost the taxpayer much more than investing in the kinds of activities, facilities and public environments that help prevent or ameliorate illness.” As it happens, quietly and with increasing effectiveness, medics and carers, health authorities and local councils alike are turning to the arts as one way to help boost the wellbeing of the nation. This is about prevention rather than cure. And, as ever with the arts and culture, it’s about enriching lives, too.”
“Some are now referring to this development as “social prescribing”. That may sound somewhat clinical. Perhaps the more elevated way to put it is that we should tend to the spirit as well as the body, and the arts can do both…
Of course, there’s nothing new about the deployment of therapeutic remedies. But what is new is the widespread involvement of arts professionals in formal agreements with health authorities.”
“Medicine attends to the body, but the arts cares for the person. It’s clear that the health service now has to put greater resources into prevention. But this is a wholly beneficial imperative. The national and local government spend on arts and culture is around one 50th of the NHS budget. But it’s a small sum that does a lot of good. Not least for health and well being.”
(SIR PETER BAZALGETTE – chair, Arts Council, England)
“What will the take-up of arts subjects be like in the future if Gove’s reforms are not reversed? The Government sees art in schools as a “nice to have”, or as an entertainment on wet Wednesday afternoons, not as an essential core activity which injects future-gazing and hope into our schools.”
“This is no time to stop protesting; the need to better advocate the arts to government remains. In truth, we need to put pressure on all politicians to take the arts more seriously. Labour makes warmer noises but an eagle eye needs to be kept on them. Weren’t they the government that commissioned the Browne Review which effectively privatised arts and humanities degree courses? The increase in student fees as a result of the Browne Review has meant that the traditional route into the professional visual arts, namely a postgraduate degree, is unthinkable for many Fine Art graduates saddled with so much debt from their first degree.”
After useful and positive feedback I intend to continue with my briefs generally as planned. We discussed whether the individual student videos were relevant, and a useful part of the project, and decided that they were as they show the overall debate surrounding the issue of arts education. This allows me to employ a lot of my COP research into the acknowledgement of constructing an argument when producing a documentary; the individual videos will show peoples experiences and opinions as truthfully as possible, and they I will consciously construct an overall documentary which draws on positive comments from the students, to argue that arts education is highly important.
I will perhaps not only include students in the individual videos, as originally planned. Instead the individual interview videos could include interviews with staff, senior management, post-graduates, and people working in the art industry, to show a more broad debate, as this strengthens the purpose of this aspect of the project.
Plan of action and things to note:
I should focus on how I select who I will interview – I should try to avoid using Viscom students – whose learning journeys I am already familiar with, and find subjects from different courses as this will give the project more integrity and allow me to develop my interview skills, as I won’t be able to anticipate what they might say. This will challenge me to have contingency questions, and to develop a fuller interview plan.
I should also try to choose a diverse range of subjects, including those from different financial backgrounds, from different parts of the country, international students, mature students, those who suffer from learning difficulties and so on. This will obviously be an investigative process and I will encourage me to develop my researching of subjects, in order to get different perspectives on the issue of arts education.