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In defence of the arts degree: why it’s still alive and kicking

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“The greatest advantage of a degree in my opinion is the recognition – that piece of paper you get at the end. So if that doesn’t provide you with as much value as a toilet paper, then there’s no point in it.” (Graeme Fulton, ‘The death of the arts student: why go to uni?’).

Allow me to begin with my opinion: the greatest advantage of a degree is the experience you receive while earning it. Forget the piece of paper; we’re talking about life experiences here.

What is an arts student?

Allow me then to offer a supporting fact: I am an arts student, and my degree is worth more than the paper it will be written on when I graduate. Being an arts student isn’t just about books and essays, nor is it about long-winded seminars in which you debate the importance of that comma in that poem. An arts degree is as much about practical skills as it is about academic prowess, because you’re learning how to analyse, to discuss and to form coherent, supported opinions and moreover developing the ability to argue them.

The bigger picture

Let’s now look at the bigger picture. A graduate scheme in a large company doesn’t usually require you to have a specific degree. In fact, all you need is a 2:1 in most cases. Any degree counts. So why then is there so much talk of the ‘death’ of the arts student?

An arts degree offers the same job prospects in terms of research, academia and graduate recruitment, and it offers more options with regard to creative careers such as arts management and heritage work. Fundamentally though, whatever the title of your degree, what employers are looking for is the experience you’ve gained while at university. Whether you’re a scientist or an arts student, if you’ve racked up work experience and made the most of university societies, you’re going to have a fighting chance at employment.

It’s what you make it 

Step away from the thoughts of expectation and pressure, and from the idea that you can get the ‘uni experience’ from hovering around your friend’s university campuses. University is what you make it.

And in answer to Graeme: no, Shakespeare didn’t have a degree. But continued debate over his actual identity, since many people refuse to believe that a man of such a meagre educational background could have possibly written plays that have had such a profound effect on our cultural heritage, only serves to demonstrate that education, even in the arts, mattered then, just as it matters now.

What do you think of Harley’s argument in defence of the arts degree? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo: See-ming Lee / Flickr

Harley RyleyIn defence of the arts degree: why it’s still alive and kicking

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