Creative Industries Federation responds to the Post-18 Education and Funding Review.
The independent panel, led by Philip Augar, has today (30 May) published its findings and recommendations for the Government’s review of post-18 education and funding in England.
We welcome the review’s focus on opening up access to education, and agree that everyone should have the opportunity to identify and develop their skills. Enabling a variety of courses and diversity of routes into the industry, including appropriate funding of Further Education and lifelong learning, is essential.
The report also recognises the need to reduce skills shortages - a major concern for the creative industries. Jobs in the creative industries are growing at four times the rate of the UK average, but there are currently around 77,000 roles that are either unfilled or that require additional skills. Skills shortages and gaps in the workforce threaten the remarkable success that the UK’s £101.5bn creative industries has seen to date.
We agree that measures must be introduced to address these skills shortages, such as the recommendation that a programme of work be undertaken to better understand the barriers that SMEs face engaging with the apprenticeship system, and that mechanisms be put in place to address these barriers.
However, if we are to genuinely improve access to quality education, it is essential that any lower cap on course fees be supported by funding from government to enable these courses to be delivered to students to the highest possible standard. Government should replace in full the lost fee income by increasing the teaching grant, leaving the average unit of funding unchanged at sector level in cash terms. Risking the ability of educational institutions to deliver high-quality creative courses presents a major threat to the success of the creative industries and the UK at large.
If the Office for Students is to carry out a review of funding rates for different subjects, it is essential that the costs associated with providing many creative courses to a high standard are recognised and that funding levels enable the UK’s creative education to remain world-leading. We would urge that such a review includes a public consultation and in-depth assessment of the costs needed to provide high quality education across all subjects. Alongside this, it is essential that the vital importance of creative education across the whole of the UK’s economy is understood.
It is concerning that the key measure of value relies primarily on earnings, and the report rightly recognises that wider measures of value should also be taken in to account for policy and decision making. This measure disregards broader social, cultural and wider economic contributions delivered by creative graduates, and the fact that many people within the sector actively choose to take roles that do not command huge salaries because they believe in the importance and impact of the work they do. This measure also ignores vital factors such as a person’s fulfillment, mental health and their quality of life.
It is important that the limitations of the early earnings analysis are taken seriously. The exclusion of self-employment income, alongside a failure to distinguish between part-time and full-time work, has a particular impact on the analysis of creative professionals. Many creative graduates have portfolio careers with multiple income sources, and 35% are self-employed. The current measures distort the reality of creative graduates' income.
The value of creative education extends beyond those working directly in the creative industries. Creative students develop highly transferable skills that lead them to creative occupations across the wider economy, and businesses outside of the creative industries are increasingly calling out for those with creative skills to help drive innovation and growth. 87% of creative workers are at low or no risk of automation, meaning that creative jobs are future proof and vital if we are to create a robust workforce that is fit for the future.
Given the creative industries’ impressive size, rate of growth, and contribution to the global economy, the value of creative education must not be misunderstood or underestimated. The sector is fast-changing, centred on ideas and innovation, and has a significant proportion of micro-business and freelancers. Creative occupations simply do not follow the more traditional career norms often assumed by policymakers, and this must be taken into account by those examining the nature and value of creative education.