It is absolutely right and proper that there is a meaningful review of university funding and student finance. Students do need more support. Many are currently leaving university heavily indebted and with unnecessarily punitive rates of interest on their debt. But varying fees by subject is not the way forward. Cutting fees for arts and social sciences will make it harder for universities to run the world leading courses for which the UK is renowned, while at the same time playing down the value of the arts, humanities and social sciences and what their alumni offer society.
In any case, it is wrong to say – as the Education Secretary implies – that arts, humanities and social science degrees leave graduates less employable or are in some way less ‘useful’ to society. 80% of the nation’s GDP comes from the service sector, which relies heavily on the skills and knowledge of these disciplines. 58% of FTSE 100 Chief Executives studied an art, humanity or social science subject at university. Our world leading sectors of the economy – such as the creative industries, financial services, legal and professional services and including the university and research sector itself - all rely predominantly on skills gained in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Put simply, the arts, humanities and social sciences are critical to our nation’s flourishing. And by putting the humanities and social sciences alongside science and technology - including the life-sciences - we will be better able to understand and shape our economic and social future. Together, they contribute to tackling the serious stresses that are evident in our domestic economy, as well as the international nature of so many of the cross-cutting challenges we face.
We hope the review results in a workable system that preserves Britain’s status as a world-leader in humanities and social sciences.
Alun Evans, Chief Executive and Secretary, British Academy