Drop in students applying for art and design degrees, reveals survey

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Applications for art and design degrees in UK fall by five per cent

The number of students applying for art and design degree courses in the UK this year fell by 14,000 compared to 2016, with applications from EU students falling five per cent.

The figures, published by Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) last week, show that applications for creative arts and design courses fell by five per cent between 2016 and 2017.

In 2017 there were 259,600 applicants for courses in fine art, design, music, drama, dance, cinema and photography, crafts and creative writing, compared to 273,870 in 2016.

Applications from EU students fell by 900 – a drop of five per cent – although there were 2,000 more overseas applicants from outside the EU, a rise of two per cent.

It marks the most significant drop in applications to creative arts and design courses since 2013, the year after the cap on tuition fees was controversially raised to £9,000.

The figures appear to validate concerns raised by creative industry professionals about the UK government's education reforms, which many believe are discouraging young people from studying creative subjects.

Two years ago industrial designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby said the government is "scared by creativity", while last year designer Michael Marriott described the British education system as "f*cked".

In 2015 London Design Festival founder John Sorrell previously spoke out against the push for the EBacc to replace existing GCSEs with five compulsory subjects: English, maths, science, geography or history, and languages. The EBacc system is now being phased into schools.

Last year's GCSE results showed the number of pupils that sat exams in design and technology (D&T) fell 10 per cent from 204,788 in 2015 to 185,279 in 2016.

The number of students sitting GCSE-level exams in art and design subjects also dropped by six per cent, from 194,637 to 183,085.

"Arts subjects are being marginalised as schools focus on EBacc and STEM [science, technology, English and maths] subjects," Sorrell said. "If we lose kids at 14 because they're choosing not to do a GCSE in design technology or art and design, what are we going to do about it? If we lose them at 14, we lose them forever."

Although the drop in this particular area is the worst in four years, it is in line with the overall decrease in university applications this year, which has seen four per cent (around 25,000) fewer people apply.

Image courtesy of Freestock.