Universities are built on the idea of the mixing of people from different backgrounds, studying different subjects, who are in turn learning from one another. However, both outside and more notably within universities themselves, there is a growing bias against the arts, with a prevalent culture that favours science and maths based subjects. Students with lower contact hours and perhaps less blatant career paths after they graduate face a growing backlash, with their subjects frequently referred to as ‘cop-out subjects’.
For arts and humanities students this can be extremely demoralising, as though the average English or History student for example has only 9 contact hours, on top of this they are expected to carry out a large amount of independent study in preparation for seminars, lectures, and continual assignments, equivalent to 88% of their studying time. What is often seen as the ‘jokey’ culture around the mockery of these subjects is arguably becoming increasingly problematic. An underlying snobbery against the arts and humanities, which implies that they are less valuable degree choices is becoming prevalent. Those bearing the brunt of the prejudices often brush it off as an inevitable consequence of their choice to study an arts or humanities subject, and are told it’s ‘just a joke’. However, surely in a university culture where the study of knowledge in whatever form should be valued, this sort of attitude whether meant maliciously or not, should not be accepted.
If thousands of students are made to feel inferior in this way, or demoralised about their future career prospects, we risk facing a crisis of confidence within this intellectual sector. The arts play a major role in the success of the British economy, with the UK’s creative industries alone contributing £90bn net to GDP, and accounting for one in 11 jobs nationwide. The huge array of fields available to arts graduates are frequently played down, not just by the peers of students but also by the universities themselves, with a crisis of funding within creative subjects across universities nationwide. It can often feel as though the £9000 each student pays for university tuition is being disproportionately spent on science-based subjects, especially considering the facilities available to these students and the vast disparity between the contact hours available to them and students of the arts.
In order to combat this growing prejudice, we must not only address the superiority complex amongst some students outside of the arts, but the universities themselves must also make a concerted effort to create a feeling of worth amongst arts students. It must be said that the majority of comments made to arts student are made in jest, however the growing frequency and prevalence of this attitude does create cause for concern. University should be an environment of inclusivity and understanding, that values the pursuit all knowledge as worthwhile, be that the study of literature, philosophy or languages or of mathematics, engineering or medicine.