Quotas For Low Value Degrees

This morning Arts Emergency, a UK based organization which advocates for the arts & humanities and puts a lot of effort into finding mentors for young creatives, post the following on Twitter:

“Hands up who took a ‘low value degree’ & wouldn’t be where you are without it. Hands up who thinks EVERY young person should have the opportunity to do the same. Hands up who thinks higher education shouldn’t be reduced to ‘produces high earners’.”

This was in response to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s proposal that cap the number of students universities can accept into “low value” degree programs according to The Guardian.

Courses will be capped that do not have a high proportion of graduates getting a professional job, going into postgraduate study or starting a business, the prime minister will announce on Monday.


The numbers cap is unlikely to affect the bulk of courses offered by Oxbridge or Russell Group universities, whose students tend to go on to “highly skilled” jobs requiring a degree and above-average earnings.

Critics of the move say that it effectively penalises universities and courses with a high proportion of working-class students, who have fewer financial resources or family support and so are more likely to drop out.

“This will effectively act as a red flag to students. Who wants to apply to a ‘low value’ course?” said one vice-chancellor, who added that universities might also become more cautious over admitting students who might be less likely to graduate or want professional careers.

I don’t know if it was the enthusiasm for the topic or the low level of traffic on Twitter, but my feed was solidly filled by this topic with only a smattering of posts on other topics. It was hard to believe this wasn’t listed as trending.  After scrolling and scrolling I was surprised to see I saw still on posts from seven hours prior. I began to worry I would hit the 600 post limit recently announced for people who didn’t pay to be verified before I got to the original post that started it all.

There were a lot of great responses and I probably missed some of the deeper words of wisdom in the mix, but a very clear, obvious response from Milo Harries caught my eye:

I obviously have a ton of thoughts on this, but really they boil down to:

Does anyone that has ever met me really think I’d have added more value to the world if I’d based my career decisions on money?

If you haven’t seen it already, a similar conversation is bouncing around in the US and I suspect other countries around the world. So it is something to which to pay attention.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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