# 110 Why I Think Art Degrees Are a Waste of Time (But Don’t Quote Me On It)
In November I am attending an event in Lincoln called ‘Careers in the Creative Industry – What Are We Going to Do?’ It asks several fundamental questions of creative education and its place in Lincolnshire where I am currently based, namely:
Is having a degree enough and can Universities do more?
What are the options and opportunities for careers in the creative industry in Lincolnshire?
How can the wider creative industry in Lincolnshire support students and graduates and also benefit themselves?
And there was a time when all you needed to be good at art was talent, a bit of ambition and essentially, to be in the right place at the right time.
These days you have to be moulded into producing the kind of creative art that your university, college or school would have you produce based on theirs and its tastes, ideals and ultimately its remit. Unless you think on your feet and work your butt off outside of the course, you might be in for a bit of a shock.
Being creative used to be the luck of the few who had talent and they did their art based on their interpretation of the world, drive and ambition. This went for writers, fine artists, illustrators and designers amongst many others.
But in our modern world, apparently you are only as creative as the grades in your final year and your work can be and may be open to interpretation by a previous generation of ‘creatives’ who may have very different ideas to your own. This is flawed and I’m not just saying this because I came out with disappointing final grades in my degree.
For any student going into these areas (in my particular case – fashion) having ideas and direction of ones own means having to follow one of two lines of learning – to potentially risk getting poor results in the pursuit of your own way of working or to conform to the requirements of the course and probably not produce the work you are truly meant to. Twice I was advised to throw out ideas of my own and do what they wanted to see. But I’ve been in the industry many years now, how can I bow down like that and still be happy with the outcome? Particularly as I was already running my own business. As anyone who is creative will know, you cannot be told how to be creative. It just is what it is and you are what you are.
Perhaps that means I’m not cut out to be a fashion designer. I’m not sure about that one yet, only time will tell. But the results of my final year did leave me wondering what on earth I was doing.
Essentially the grades are of no use to me – I am already an established business owner with a niche market and I am never short of work. The thing is that we are already over saturated with students studying creative subjects and there is not enough work to go round in the job market, that’s for sure. Towing the line, fitting in, is unlikely to get you noticed. Branching out, being different, could be the only thing that makes you stand out from the crowd whether you got a third or a first in your final degree.
And university life in no way prepares you for the reality of being one of many many people without enough work experience or direction in an over saturated market. You don’t have to look very far to find articles which pretty much say the same thing such as this from the Guardian in January.
According to the Office of National Statistics in March 2012 recent graduates are more likely to work in low skill jobs than a decade ago. Of course a cynic might say that encouraging students to attend university has nothing to do with degrees but about keeping youngsters off the dole, thus making Government figures look better than they actually are. It’s another remark I hear often. As of March 2012 there were 1.50 million recent graduates looking for work. So what makes you stand out from the crowd?
higher education qualification within the last six years, employed in
lower skilled jobs has increased from around 26.7 per cent
in 2001, or just over one in every four recent graduates, to around
35.9 per cent, or more than one in three recent graduates in the
final quarter of 2011.
Higher skill jobs generally require competence through post-compulsory
education whereas lower skill jobs tend to require competence only
through compulsory education.