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Arts Emergency Service

Arts Emergency are highlighting the reversal of decades’ of social access to the arts


Learning to read poetry or philosophy or how to understand a painting or film are not elite pursuits, but now rising tuition fees and the withdrawal of public funding for the teaching of Arts and Humanities at university means they risk becoming so.

We believe that looming debt affects the type of degree young people choose. It changes the way people view degrees, as a financial trade off based on perceived employability. Combined with an escalating premium on many jobs and the lack of countervailing pressure at home or school, many students are tempted to play safe, opting for apparently “useful” or more work-related degrees.

This being the case, in a newly marketised system any reduction in demand for Arts and Humanities degrees leads to nationwide department mergers and closures. This further reduces the opportunity to study such subjects and severely exacerbates existing inequalities of access.

We run a national ‘alternative’ Old Boy Network that aims to create privilege for people without privilege and counter the myth that universities, and in particular arts degrees, are the domain of the middle and upper classes. Our volunteers come from TV, film, music, art, fashion, academia, law, architecture, activism, comedy, social work, journalism, publishing, design, activism and theatre.

Mentoring is a wonderful way to have a positive impact on a young person’s life. Our student members work with a mentor over the course of a year, meeting up with them once a week with additional support in between. They are helped to explore their options in Higher Education and the creative and professional worlds, and to pursue their current personal goals. All of our mentors have an arts degree or considerable experience in a relevant field (law, art, music etc) and we provide accreditation level training in communication and child protection.