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Creative arts degrees cost taxpayer 30% more than engineering – report

Preparations for a career in theatre need to begin well before graduation day. Photo: Shutterstock Creative arts graduates in Britain earn the least after university, claims a new report. Photo: Shutterstock
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Creative arts degrees cost the taxpayer 30% more than engineering degrees and are among the most expensive for the public purse, a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has claimed.

Including drama and music, creative arts degrees are studied by approximately 37,000 young people in England each year. Taxpayers provide more to students who study these courses because they typically earn less than other degrees and therefore pay back less of their loans.

The IFS’ report claims because of this, taxpayers spend about 30% more on arts degrees than on the equivalent engineering courses.

For many subjects, the government expects to write off about 60% of the loans it issues. However, for high-earning subjects such as economics, this figure is more like 25%. The report says that for creative arts degrees, write-offs are likely to amount to approximately 75% of loans issued.

The report’s author, economist Laura van der Erve, said: “Reforms to the higher education system over the past 20 years have meant that the strongest driver of taxpayer spending on each subject and institution is the earnings of their graduates.

“While some level of subsidisation is a desirable feature of the system, there are serious doubts about whether the current distribution of spending aligns with the degrees that are most beneficial to society.”

Earlier this year, centre-right think tank Onward said the government should “crack down” on arts degrees because of the limited economic value they provide graduates and taxpayers. Its report said the number of students on these courses should be restricted.

Arts degrees produce the most some of the highest numbers of graduates but deliver the lowest salary potential, with median earnings of just £23,200 a decade after graduating.

Government should restrict access to ‘low-value’ arts degrees, think tank report claims

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