Sunday, 17 October 2010

Browned off

Lefties vs Righties.

London tries to exude an artificial and whimsical air of bourgeoisie charm the type heralded by bored housewives and cross word lovers alike. 

Even Transport For London is cashing in with "Art on the Underground". 

And....what is a "strategically important subject"

As reported in the Guardian on Tuesday it was inferred from the Lord Browne funding review - Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education-that funding for arts and humanities would receive cuts.  

Lord Brown specified "medicine, science, mathematics" as "strategically important".

After all, given that the defense budget is potentially being slashed, keeping a  ready supply of well trained nurses at the ready for all those poor soldiers negotiating the front line with naff assault rifles that keep jamming, makes sense.

Visions of illiterate Philistines stomping around the country using priceless works of literature for toilet paper and grunting the occasional “ug” at the homeless actors, philosophers and film-makers clutching beautifully worded cardboard pleas for help had us horrified.

Lord Browne faced the music in an online forum at The Student Room on Wed 13th. In response to the question " don’t you think abandoning the Arts & humanities is short-sighted?" Lord Browne said,

We're not. If students choose to study these courses, then the Government will provide the up-front funding for it. If it is strategically important, then it will receive additional funding.

In an article in the Guardian, Professor Carole Leathwood suggested
that a more appropriate title for the review would be "Securing a sustainable future for privilege and elitism", saying that:

Research shows that working class, women and some minority ethnic groups tend to be more debt-averse than their white middle class peers, and that financial considerations strongly impact upon decisions of which university to attend – particularly for working class students.

Potential students were interviewed at an open day at London Metropolitan University on Saturday.   

The BBC had already published a poll reporting that “more than two-thirds of UK students would be put off university by tuition fees of £7,000 a year.”  

Prospective younglings and their parents were quizzed on the science vs art debate.

Jenny, a potential student of Extended Sciences, had difficulty answering the question of whether maths/science subjects are more important. She said in response to potential cuts,  

“I’d be very upset…the reason I didn’t like Art & Design was that there was a lot more written work…you can get what you want out of art without a degree…It was more a hobby than a career, so I abandoned it”. 

She said that she works very hard, and described herself as “working class”.

Emma Byrne highlighted the benefits of studying in Ireland where students pay an enrollment fee each year and have no tuition fees.  Students however are required to pay for all their own books and materials. 

She suggested it would be better for Irish students to study at home with fears of UK tuition fees being uncapped.

Jacky Johnson's mother offered an Anglo-American angle. She was surprised how a lot of British families were not in the habit of saving for their child's education,  "Students should have to pay" she said. 

The potential uncapped tuition fees did strike her as a drastic change for UK students, "it's going to be outrageous".  

Jacky said she was seriously considering doing her conservation degree part time alongside work. 

She is trying to transfer from Cardiff University because of staff shortage issues and only four other students doing her course.  The Johnsons considered themselves working class.

Future students of the subject area would still receive up-front funding for their degrees so there does not appear to be any imminent danger of the country deteriorating into a cultural desert.  

Hopefully one day Arts and Humanities will cease to be the subject of parish meetings and be taken seriously. 

Jonathan Moore, Academic Leader at Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Languages and Education, summed it up quite well when he said that the market would decide. What stays or goes will be determined by the old rule of nature: “Survival of the fittest.”

By Jane Playdon and Shaun Humphreys


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