Education secretary Nicky Morgan has caused controversy after she recently said that studying arts or humanities subjects made it harder for students to find work in later life, and they should instead study science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subjects.
“If you didn’t know what you wanted to do… then the arts and the humanities were what you chose because they were useful, we were told, for all kinds of jobs… We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That the subjects to keep young people’s options open are STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths,” she is reported to have said.
“The skills gained from studying these subjects will come in useful in almost any job you care to mention; from the creative and beauty industries to architecture”.
The comments were delivered as part of a speech she was making on behalf of a campaign called Your Life, which aims for a 50% increase in the number of students studying STEM subjects. The campaign is being backed by companies such as Shell, Ford and Nestlé, amid fears that businesses are being adversely affected by a lack of applicants with a background in STEM subjects; since 2002 the amount of applications for arts, business and humanities degrees has increased by 80%, while applications for science, engineering and technology degrees have increased by 20%. The campaign also aims to increase the amount of women in STEM fields.
Morgan has faced a backlash from organisations such as The University of the Arts of London and the National Union of Teachers, who said “downgrading the arts is the wrong message”, as well as the comedian Josie Long, who described the government’s stance as “immense, ingrained snobbery” and raised concerns the comments might “silence creative voices”.
The Independent newspaper noted a recent drop in applicants for creative arts degrees and a long term drop in the amount of pupils studying arts and humanities GCSEs.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I think that having a creative and inquisitive mind is an invaluable gift that the arts provide you with. Having said that, I can’t help but agree with Nicky Morgan.

    When I chose to do my degree in history, I did it because I liked history and was reasonably good at it but since I’ve been at UEA, this is the list of careers that I think it can give me:
    – History teacher
    – Professor
    – Museum researcher
    -Tour guide.

    It’s hardly a great list. Fair enough, children shouldn’t be put off doing something they love. But if they truly love it enough to put the work in to get them a top job, then they wouldn’t be put off it anyway. I think people like me who had a moderate interest should’ve been warned sooner about my career prospects. It’s only a fact that there are more jobs in science and technology. Nicky Morgan shouldn’t be criticised for saying it.

    • +1.

      Arts and humanities aren’t inherently worse or less useful subjects; they’re just niche. For the majority of business, STEM subjects provide a wider range of useful skills.

      STEM subjects are also generally believed to be harder, although I don’t know how accurate that actually is, so I guess there’s something in that as well?

      (Views own.)

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