UKADIA, GuildHE and the Head Trust have published new research into the qualification profile of young people entering arts courses in Higher Education.


Over the last five years there has been a worrying trend of de-prioritising arts education in schools. The introduction of the eBacc in 2010 and Progress/Attainment 8 in 2016 signalled a shift in school regulation which discouraged creative subjects being studied at GCSE level. This coupled with the squeezing of school finances (IFS research shows a decline of 9% in real term 2010 to 2019) has led to a decline in the quality and quantity of arts education for young people. Arts subjects are now taught for 23% less hours than in 2010 and we believe this is further declining due to the curriculum pressures brought on by the pandemic.


This research project was commissioned by our organisations to better understand the types of qualifications applicants to HE creative courses hold, the impact of school reform on choices at 16 and 18, and to enable us to take action on addressing the inequalities in accessing good quality arts education for all in society. Universities play an important role in the creative skills eco-system, offering high quality and industry specific training which other technical Post-16 education routes cannot replicate. It is therefore vital to understand the extent to which school reform is changing the knowledge and skills applicants have, and their exposure to arts and culture in their childhood years. 


The data clearly shows that those experiencing disadvantage do not have as much access to arts education as the most advantaged in our society. Our data looks at A level, BTEC and practical arts qualifications and shows a decline in applicants who hold more than one arts qualification when they apply to university and the sharpest decline has been from those in the least advantaged areas of the country. The most advantaged in society are more likely to hold any arts qualification; and the least advantaged less likely to be able to access arts qualifications.

Paul Gough, Chair of UKADIA and Vice-Chancellor at Arts University Bournemouth said “With the creative economy the UK’s fastest growing sector (pre-pandemic) and bigger than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas sectors combined, it is vital we ensure a pipeline of talent continues to flow into the creative sector. There must also be equality of opportunity for anyone regardless of wealth, location, gender or ethnicity. We must do more to make sure that creative skills are nurtured within the National Curriculum and ensure that all young people have access to qualifications which will support their journey into a successful and fulfilling creative career.”

We hope this report will be useful for universities in better understanding the qualification profile of their future applicants, and for the creative sector to use as evidence to improve access to creative education. You can view the key findings from our research here and the full report here.
Written by Dr Kate Wicklow


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