A censored society: Rishi’s crackdown on the arts

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Last month, the Prime Minister announced his plans to ‘crack down’ on so-called ‘rip off’ university degrees. These plans have mainly been met with criticism, which is arguably completely justified.

The Prime Minister has previously demonstrated his preference for STEM subjects when he announced earlier this year that he wants all students to continue studying some form of mathematics in schools till they turn 18. This was also met with widespread outcry, but I believe this is far more reasonable than his current plans.

How can we conclude that low employment rates after graduation reflect the usefulness of a degree when the economy has been in disarray for the last three years?

Rishi Sunak’s proposal to crack down on these degrees is simply terrifying. The proposal itself leaves room for confusion – what constitutes a rip-off degree? How can we conclude that low employment rates after graduation reflect the usefulness of a degree when the economy has been in disarray for the last three years?

Critics have highlighted that this crackdown will simply make it harder for working-class and minority students to gain a place at university if numbers are limited. Students from middle-class backgrounds or those who attended private school are more likely to be given the resources to successfully gain a place at university – which is exactly why contextual offers exist. However, if places are limited, the number of contextual offers will be limited too, and this will be a tragedy. In my opinion, Sunak’s government have repeatedly shown that they do not care about promoting social mobility within society, and this is just another way they are expressing that sentiment.

Within the government’s proposals, it is continually suggested that the real victim of these ‘low-value’ degrees is the taxpayer. Arguably this is another Populist tactic: How dare the ungrateful younger generation waste taxpayers’ money by attempting to better themselves through higher education? 

The Tory’s reforms to higher education since 2010 have seemed to echo the sentiment that high education is not a right in this country. It is a privilege that must be paid for.

For me, the most startling part of these proposed reforms is how they appear to be a form of censorship. Should the government have any say in what someone chooses to do with their life? Should this man, himself unelected by the general public, dictate the path students choose to take? It seems very clear that Sunak wants to limit places on programmes that are more creative, and ultimately censor the study of art, music, or drama.

Without art, we lose what makes us human

The Tories have been criticised for underfunding the arts in British state schools since the Coalition government but have not held back on their venture to cripple the arts in Britain. In 2022, the Arts Council England funding in London was reduced by around £50 Million. In 2021, Gavin Williamson, as Education Secretary, proposed that funding for ‘high cost’ subjects at universities, such as art & design or performing arts, be cut by around 50% and instead streamed into STEM subjects. This isn’t to say that subjects in the STEM sector are unimportant, they are fundamental to the success of our country, and the future of generations to come – however, I don’t think anyone is trying to deny this.

The neglect of the arts in this country is dire and depressing. Of course, we need funding for STEM subjects and research, but people need art too. They need entertainment, joy and freedom of expression; something that art unequivocally brings. Without art, we lose what makes us human.

Ultimately, this crackdown will continue to neglect the arts and censor the paths of young people. It is no longer our right to choose whatever path we want. We just make decisions with the government in our ear.

Image credit: Carrer Guide via Flickr

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