Stem priority areas must include art and design

In the decade since the publication of the Creative Industries Mapping Document by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, there has been growing recognition of the importance of the creative industries. It is the fastest-growing sector of the economy, generating £60bn, some 7.3 per cent of GDP, and employing two million people.

However, this position is leading to complacency. Our success is directly related to the infrastructure of education which supplies our industries with creative recruits. Evidence of the direct relationship between investment in this sector and its contributions to the UK economy can be found in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data showing congruence between art and design education and the proportion of GDP ascribed to the creative industries. The UK leads in both, but to sustain this position requires continued strategic investment.

These facts have been missed by the Government, which has excluded art and design from the priority areas identified in the recently published Framework Document for Higher Education, notably the Stem subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

As a result, we run the risk of losing our world-leading position in the creative sector. There are already signs of this in the falling enrolments for 3D studies, particularly product design, where we have held such a strong international reputation. Such examples are chilling when set against the strategic development of design education in countries like China and South Korea.

At the risk of spoiling the handy acronym of Stem, it is time for Lord Mandelson to do as he intimated to the higher education body Guild HE and add art and design to the priority list.
Professor Stuart Bartholomew, Principal of the Arts University College at Bournemouth and chairman of the United Kingdom Arts and Design Institutions Association

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