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For a particularly attentive child of ten, soon to advance to an English secondary school and with the foresight to know that she wishes eventually to pursue a career in the creative arts — as an interaction designer, say, or a fine artist, or an interior architect — 2013 was a spirit crushing year.

She will have exited 2012 dismayed at the threat to drop mandatory provision of creative education from the national school curriculum, and been elated when this was defeated by the #IncludeDesign campaign, supported by the likes of Sir Terence Conran, Berg and IDEO. She will note that it did, however, indicate a political ambivalence to maintaining a healthy creative sector for following generations. She will have been equally discouraged by affairs at the other end of the spectrum, perhaps having overheard an older cousin lamenting their inability to accept a design internship in the capital as they cannot afford to work for free. She understands that the internship system is an effective way for these industries to manage the transition from training to practice, but not the tendency to use it as an opportunity to exploit graduate labour.

But, she will tell her friends, it is betwixt these two unenviable positions that the real crisis manifests. The increase in university tuition fees suggested in 2010 and brought to bear in 2012 has had a deleterious effect on higher education. The majority of institutions have chosen to charge up to the full £9,000 limit. Meanwhile, the economic crisis has seen matriculation increasingly phrased as an investment in future earning potential rather than any humanistic ethos of personal development or societal edification. From the perspective of both funding and enrollment, this isn't an equation that works favorably for the creative arts.


Peter Maxwell

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