2019 A-Level results reveal further drop in art and design students in the UK

This year’s results follows a downward trend in popularity for creative subjects both at schools and universities.

Photo credit: skynesher

The number of students taking art and design A-Levels has fallen in popularity, Ofqual A-Level results day data shows.

The overall number of students who took art and design A-Levels has fallen 1.6% from 2018 to 2019.

A total number of 39,200 students took art and design this year, which is less than half of the most popular subject, maths (85,000 students).

This year, 245,300 A-Levels were taken overall by students in the UK, a fall of 800 from 2018.

A downwards trend

The drop in art and design follows an ongoing trend in numbers of students taking arts and creative subjects at schools.

English language suffered the biggest fall in popularity out of all subjects, with a 22.2% drop, while English Language and Literature fell by 15.8%.

STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fared better meanwhile. Chemistry and Biology both increased by 9.4% while Physics had 3.4% more applicants.

However, maths, while remaining the UK’s most popular subject, fell by 5.8% and further mathematics by 10.1%.

A further drop at university level for art and design

Declining popularity in art and design A-Levels appears to have a knock-on effect for university places in the relevant fields.

Initial results from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show a drop in places accepted on creative arts and design courses by 1,010 from 41,980 in 2018 to 40,970 this year.

Overall, 408,960 students have been accepted on university degrees, a fall of 1% from last year’s 411,860.

Falling rates in creative subjects have been attributed to government focus on STEM subjects and the rise in tuition fees.

In 2012, tuition fees were raised to £9,000. The increased financial pressure is teamed with the perception of competitive and badly-paid jobs within the creative industries.

Another contributing factor appears to be the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) qualification in 2010.

The requirement means it is compulsory for GCSE students to take English, maths, science, IT, a language and a humanity which means that there is little space for a creative subject .

While the government has pledged investment into the creative industries, this is heavily weighted to the digital economy rather than supporting design education.

Creative degrees remain popular

2019’s number of art and design university students is likely to increase as students apply for courses through clearing over the following weeks. Last year, 3,875 students were accepted in clearing on art and design courses.

Despite the falling numbers, arts and design courses remain popular for UK university students.

Based on these initial figures, 10% of a total number of 408,960 students have been accepted to study the degrees.

That makes creative arts and design the fourth most popular area of study. Most popular is business and administrative Studies (47,800 students), then biological sciences (45,270) and third, subjects allied to medicine (43,100).

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  • Alex December 16, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Can you also compare this with the uptake of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships were unpopular in the early 2000’s, but there has been is a rise in their popularity in recent years. I imagine this would affect the uptake of Art & Design courses after GCSE or A Level.

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