Yesterday saw the biggest student protests for a generation in Britain. 50,000 people took to the streets of London to protest against tuition fees rising to as much as £9,000 a year.
The rising cost of further education in this country inevitably puts greater emphasis on students employability and earning power once their education has commenced. This opens up the age old debate of the worth of studying the arts, or so called soft subjects.
The UK has a great tradition of the art school drop out. People who might not reach the end of their tenure in higher education, but their time at university is incredibley instrumental in leading to their future cultural output.
Luminaries of this elite group include John Lennon, David Bowie, Jarvis Cocker, members of The Clash and half of Blur to mention a few. Without time spent in further education, would any of these people gone on to have done any of the great things they did?
Education is meant to be about enriching society and shouldn’t always be intrinsically linked to its economic value. The people I’ve mentioned, and I’m only touching on musicians, have contributed massively to Britain’s cultural wealth. Would they have been able to make such contributions without being given the time to think a little outside the box in institutions such as Goldsmiths University or St Martin’s College?
Joe Strummer considered his time spent at art college in Newport as intrinsic to him later forming The Clash. Would he have been at art school in Newport if he’d had to pay nine grand a year for the pleasure? Probably not.
From Lennon, to Bowie to Blur, further education has been played a huge role in shaping the music to come out of Britain for decades. Without these people, not only music, but Britain in general would be a much duller place. Something the coalition should think about, before making higher education inaccessible to a host of Britain’s future cultural icons.