Published on February 19, 2014 | by Callum McCarthy


Debate joined on value of art degrees

Katie Hopkins on ITV's This Morning

Hopkins is known for voicing her controversial views via twitter. [Youtube: Phil Townsend]

Sun columnist Katie Hopkins will be one of six participants in a debate entitled ‘An arts degree is a waste of time and money‘, organised by right of centre magazine The Spectator.

The event, in early March, will feature former Apprentice contestant Hopkins arguing for the motion, while author Will Self will appear in defence of an education in the arts. Daily Politics host and former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil is billed as chair.

The debate will seek to establish if a degree in the arts is a worthwhile venture, or whether we should put creativity aside to become more ‘useful’ members of society.

“What good are the arts really?” asks the blurb on the event page. It continues: “In a world in which a degree is no longer a guarantee of employment, is it not more sensible for students to undertake vocational study?”

Those seeking a civilised and balanced discussion could be better off averting their eyes, as Hopkins has already provided a taster on the subject prior to the debate.

Writing in The Spectator on Valentine’s Day, Hopkins said: “Like sex or chocolate, time spent pondering life with a whimsical expression is an indulgence. […] If you are Dwayne from inner-city Hull, growing up in a tough council estate with limited life chances, the liberal arts are about as useful as a pink jumper.”


Hopkins instead advocates students should go to technical colleges that “transform young people into employees fit for business.”

But not all young people want to be poured into the business mould. Some even benefit from studying an arts degree, including 22-year-old Camberwell graduate Emma Semmens.

“Creativity is integral to development and learning.” Emma Semmens

“I don’t think I would cope well in a desk job; I couldn’t live without creativity,” said Semmens, who studied BA Illustration. “I’m a freelance artist – my degree gave me the confidence to declare myself as that and tell people that that’s what I do, and make money from it.”

She added: “I don’t know why creativity has to be seen as something of leisure; why does it have to be something so meaningless it can only be a hobby? Creativity is integral to development and learning. Without it, I think we’d be really messed up.”

21-year-old Charlotte Laidler, a 3D Fine Art student at CSM, said: “Art is something people use as a voice against government. If you’re getting rid of art, you are getting rid of people’s voices.”

She also believes that vocational subjects could learn from the arts in how they are taught.

“I think they should make it so that everyone has to do a foundation course, even if you want to learn a science,” she said. “The way you learn to organise your time and think outside the box would help in any field of study, not just art.”


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