The private sector is picking up the pieces as the UK government cuts arts education funding

Arts education in the UK is under attack again. Two years after former Conservative education secretary Gavin Williamson announced he would cut higher education funding for arts courses by 50%, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched an attack against “low-value” degree courses.

“Students and taxpayers will be better protected against degree courses which have high drop-out rates, do not lead to good jobs and leave young people with low wages and high debt,” Sunak and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan promised in a government press release. On July 17.

In 2019, a government-commissioned independent review of post-18 education and finance in the UK, chaired by writer and former investment banker Philip Ogar, highlighted arts and humanities courses, particularly the creative arts, as offering the worst value for taxpayers. Money and lowest profit results. The findings of the Augar review served as the basis for the current Conservative government’s desire to cap or reduce what it now calls “fraud” courses.

But who will suffer the effects of this crusade the most? Students from less advantaged backgrounds Do They struggle to gain work in the art world, mainly due to structural barriers: unpaid internships, low wages, and the London-centric nature of much of the industry.

Many universities are already making cuts to plug multi-million pound shortfalls, with arts and humanities departments bearing the brunt. The University of Wolverhampton has a “rolling program of course closures and redundancies”, according to Aidan Byrne, head of English literature and former president of the University and College Union. One of the biggest losses is the permanent closure of the bachelor’s and master’s courses in glass and ceramics.

At the University of Brighton, more than 100 academic staff are set to be made redundant, including widely respected scholars Kathy Bergin, a senior lecturer in Brighton’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.and Lizzie Ward, Principal Research Fellow at the School. Neither of them was available for comment when contacted.

“Our senior managers are destroying the arts department at Brighton,” says Kevin Biederman, a senior lecturer in the university’s School of Arts and Media. “After the last round of voluntary layoffs, there is almost no one left to teach fine arts. But they still think they have not made enough. That is why we are taking indefinite strike action. Our government does not want to see working-class young people in university education, especially education.” Which develops their ability to think for themselves.

The commercial sector has been quietly filling some of this deficit for several years. Over the past decade, a few private art schools have opened, most recently the Tracey Emin Artist Residency in Margate, which provides studio space and classes for young artists from around the world. Kent also has Open School East, a free, independent arts school founded in 2013 that caters for pupils and students aged between 5 and 21. Another coastal initiative, Sidmouth School of Arts, was launched in 2021 in collaboration with David Shrigley.

Traders offer fellowships and grants

Art dealers also get involved. In 2020, Lisson Gallery launched the Solomon B. Hayden Art History Fellowship, named after the artist’s father, Hugh Hayden. This fellowship, personally funded by Hayden and the gallery’s senior leadership team, aims to support diverse candidates who wish to pursue a career in art history and/or curation. Last year, the gallery began offering £10,000 bursaries to both black, Asian and minority ethnic students on registered postgraduate courses at Goldsmiths University of London.

Hauser & Wirth established its education department nearly a decade ago when Debbie Hilliard joined the gallery, having been a lecturer in critical studies at Bath Spa University. The learning program was initially launched in Somerset in 2014, then in Los Angeles in 2016, where the gallery participated in a residency exchange between the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and Bath Spa University, and in 2021 in Minorca, where the gallery is currently working with the University of the Islands. Balearics. In 2019, Hauser & Wirth gave $1 million to the Department of Television, Film and Media Studies at California State University.

“As a gallery, we can provide education in the working world that a university doesn’t provide,” Hilliard says. “You spend years in a lecture hall or in a studio, but that’s very different from the actual outside art world. The bridge to that system is very important.”

In 2022, the show engaged 150,000 students across all its locations, and to meet demand, Hillyerd has recruited four new team members in the UK and US this year alone. However, she believes that such expansion should not fill the gaps left by legal education. “The role and responsibility of the creative industry is to recognize the value and impact we can provide to help the future generation access these careers,” she says. “Learning should not be the privileged thing we collect and put a price on. Transmitting knowledge should be the greatest privilege of all of us.

The world’s major auction houses have traditionally been very exclusive business environments, employing the children of the wealthy, well-connected and wealthy. But now, gradually, their hiring practices are becoming more diverse and inclusive.

Phillips New York announced last June that it would launch an apprenticeship program in collaboration with US-based outreach organization Art Start to promote a “more open and diverse career landscape” in the art trade.

Selected with the help of Art Start, the selected interns from long-marginalized communities will spend 12 months experiencing the different career paths offered by Philips, including specialist departments, events, customer services, operations and property handling. Successful completion of the program will lead to a full-time job offer at Philips, according to the announcement.

“It’s about changing the system,” says Michelle Petrazzolo, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) at Philips. “These organizations are hundreds of years old,” adds Pietrazzolo, who realizes that the finest auction houses tend to employ a “homogeneous group.”

Pietrazzolo says there is no set target for the number of interns Philips will hire. So far, three have been hired by the auction house, which has 216 full-time and fixed-term employees in the United States. “The change won’t be quick, but we want it to be permanent,” she says.

Phillips describes its apprenticeship program as “the first of its kind for the auction industry.” This may be the case in the US, but Christie’s has been running a similar Advanced Level (Level 3) non-graduate apprenticeship program in London since 2017.

Christie’s is collaborating with Art History Link-Up, an organization dedicated to introducing state schoolchildren to the subject, which is now offered as A-level in fewer than eight schools outside the private sector.

“We’re trying to encourage a different kind of person than Christie’s to bring new ideas and a different energy,” says Toby Monk, the auction house’s state-educated global recruiting director.

Christie’s currently has around 600 staff in London, 35 of whom are trainees, most of them state-educated, working in a range of corporate functions, including specialist technical departments. The initiative currently scores 9.3/10 on, the UK’s online resource for school leavers seeking internships at leading companies.

To date, Sotheby’s does not operate an equivalent apprenticeship program in either the US or the UK. However, in 2021, Sotheby’s New York published a corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) action plan for 2022-2025.

The company is committed to having a hiring process that “actively seeks out and prioritizes diverse candidates from historically excluded communities at all levels of the business,” the document says.

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