Following higher education funding cuts of 50%, falling applicant numbers for creative courses at UK universities have caused a skills shortage. Experts highlight an increasing reliance on international students to plug the creative skills gap.
The UK could be facing a creativity deficit, with 20% fewer applications for arts and design courses at UK universities in the last decade. In the last five years alone, there has been a 12% drop.
These courses play a key role in providing talent to creative industries, including gaming, fashion, film, photography and music, among others.
The greatest contributors to the decline are falling numbers of UK and EU applicants. Domestic applications are down 25% in 10 years, while EU applications have halved since Brexit.
By contrast, the amount of non-EU applicants for creative arts and design courses in the UK has more than doubled in the last 10 years. In the last five years, it has risen by 44%. Around one in six applications for UK creative courses now come from non-UK citizens.
The data was collected from UCAS through a freedom of information request, by high-resolution design textures specialists Ultra High Resolution. The findings show applicant numbers and diversity in demographics for all creative arts and design courses at UK universities.
Recent reports suggest that the booming UK film industry and related sectors will have 40,000 vacancies by 2025, with a severe skills shortage looming on the horizon.
A ripple effect
The UK government slashed higher education funding for art and design courses across England by 50% this academic year.
This prompted a wave of criticism that the cuts misunderstood art’s role in society, and predictions that the impacts would ripple across the economy. Industries that rely upon both technical and creative skills are reporting skills shortages post-Brexit.
The pandemic, a surge in games’ popularity and Brexit have caused a labour shortage in the gaming industry, which used to rely heavily upon EU talent. There’s a demand for those with animation, design and writing skills in the UK games market, which is more than double the size it was 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, the fashion industry – the UK’s largest creative industry – which is worth £35 billion a year, has warned of severe talent shortages, with EU workers leaving gaps post-Brexit. Architecture is facing a similar challenge: the RIBA’s Future Trends survey reports that one in five practices are struggling to recruit.
David Lineton, a still life photographer who heads up the digital specialist team at Ultra High Resolution, said:
“During the pandemic, we’ve seen the arts suffer greatly, with lockdowns keeping people away from galleries, cinemas and theatres. And funding has been another huge issue, with those in the industry sometimes struggling for their incomes, making the field more competitive than ever.
“What’s pleasing though, is that the UK’s international reputation for the creative industries is still shining through. And as the UK scene becomes even more diverse, we’re sure to see a truly vibrant industry emerge from the pandemic.”
Ste Bergin, film producer and lecturer on the film production course at the University of Salford, said:
“When George Osborne was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he brought in some major tax incentives for productions to shoot in the UK. This allowed the UK to grow further as a cultural powerhouse – and students want to study in that kind of environment as it simply may not exist at home. More international talent moving to the UK means that more art is created here, and we are more financially incentivised as a country to fund that talent’s art.”
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