What constitutes value in education?

How should education, indeed our careers, be measured?  How do we decide the value of one profession over another?

Do we as a society want to measure our children’s achievements in terms of their taxes or their toil and talents? Do we value the taxes of a financier over the talents of a film maker? We don’t. Indeed, we ask that the talents of every individual and everyone's contributions – no matter how well remunerated – be recognised for playing an important part and role in our society. 

How then have we arrived at a single benchmark which adds a price tag to career paths in higher education, where the future earnings of one graduate over another is set to define and be the benchmark for course 'success'. In other words, which courses thrive and which courses will strive. 

Along with our colleagues in CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) we believe that the Government’s discourse on the value delivered by higher education is too narrowly focused. Last week (29 February 2020) the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published a report, The impact of undergraduate degrees on lifetime earnings. The report asks the question: ‘Is going to university a good investment?’ In answering this question the report’s findings are laden with value judgements, with profiling limited to the 'lower economic value’ of creative and healthcare degrees. 

A response from CHEAD helps us to answer the question of value. They say arts and design subjects are a good investment...

  • ‘Adding value through research and international collaborations
  • Adding value through civic engagement
  • Adding value through soft power
  • Adding value through socially and culturally engaged graduates
  • Adding value through enterprise
  • Adding value through place making
  • Adding value through driving good design and creative principles being embedded across policy and all sectors of our economy.

‘Research by London Economics and GuildHE and HeadTrust, Understanding the limitations of graduate outcome measures in higher education, in 2018, concluded,  that Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data does not capture the spill-over effects of working in the creative industries. It concluded that the average gross salary earned in the arts and culture industry stands at £30,789 per employee, but that an additional £42,420 in gross salary per employee was accrued elsewhere in the economy as a result of these spill-over effects.’

We also believe that the messaging given to schools and future graduates is unclear. Last week WarnerBros and the BBC also launched an online collection of resources titled, Making the Magic. The resources seek to encourage more young people to enter the profession. They state that in the next five years the film industry alone will need 10,000 more people to enter the progression. 

With this in mind, if policy makers are hell bent on putting a price tag on higher education and careers, the bitter truth is many courses will close. We therefore ask: Where will the next generation of creatives come from; how will the UK maintain its global and leading creative industries and how will these industries maintain their invaluable and high-level contributions to the economy?