Brice Stratford

Why universities are bad for the arts

(Photo: iStock)

Members of the arts establishment have spent the past week outraged, following news that for the upcoming academic year funding for university courses in drama, dance, media studies and so on might have to be temporarily halved in order to better fund courses in medicine, nursing, pharmacology, the environment and the various sciences.

Bearing in mind the state of the world, this shift in priorities might seem an unfortunate necessity. Nevertheless, toys are flying from prams. The arts education bubble is apparently livid that healthcare and the environment should be considered more deserving of funding than they are. Endless arts professional activists – who forever proclaim their undying commitment to the NHS, or the climate emergency we find ourselves in, or self-identify as anarchists who won’t be bound by institutions – are suddenly flabbergasted to find that university money might actually have to go to these subjects instead of their own. After a year or more of being told by the arts community that supporting the NHS and saving the planet must be the top priorities, it’s odd to now read that actually they shouldn’t be and that instead further investment in Media Studies must be our national ambition.

The art market today is little more than a grand pyramid scheme for the super-rich

The outrage is built on weak foundations. The universities, along with self-absorbed arts industry acolytes, genuinely believe that only academia can build a generation of ‘world-class’ artists. They remain oblivious to the fact that the current, unprecedented sprawl of university arts degrees has failed to produce the promised renaissance in music, theatre, art or literature. In fact, the cultural relevance and overall artistic accomplishments of these forms has never been lower.

The art market today is little more than a grand pyramid scheme for the super-rich that means little to the man on the street, and reflects nothing of his culture or society.

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