Opinion | What the rethink, reskill, reboot campaign means to Arts students


By Lydia Patrick, Fourth Year, French, Spanish and Portuguese

For Arts students the prospect of University coming to an end has never been more daunting. Along with ravaging the industry I love the pandemic has caused great career uncertainty for graduating Arts students like myself. Yet it is the government’s complete disregard for us that has made it all the more unbearable to stomach.

The resurfacing of the governments CyberFirst campaign poster demonstrates this perfectly. The now infamous poster encouraged young people to consider a career in cybersecurity. What terrible timing.

Amidst a pandemic, where people in the arts feel forgotten, and with youth unemployment skyrocketing, this poster rightfully stirred up a social media storm. The poster in question, showed an image of Fatima- a ballet dancer - with a tagline urging her to retrain in cybersecurity. Fatima is symbolic of the government’s dismissal of home-grown artistic talent and creativity. She embodies dreams that are now seen as unattainable and unimportant.

As Fatima is encouraged to pirouette out of a dance studio into a dull, grey and mundane office, she represents a UK devoid of life, culture and soul. Just days before the Chancellor himself urged people to ‘adapt and adjust to the new reality’. If only this were so easy.

As Arts students we have dedicated years of our lives to studying and perfecting our Arts, just to be told in a matter-of-fact way that they do not matter. We deserve more respect. Not only did the industry contribute an enormous £8.5bn to the UK economy but the Arts are among the most heavily struck sectors by this pandemic.

In light of Sunak’s unapologetic speech, the government announced a new quiz to help the newly unemployed or students hoping to graduate, to find their alternative, ideal career path. I thought I’d give the quiz a try. After answering a series of questions on my skills the results were in.

Arts have never been more important

It seems after spending the majority of my life studying languages and accumulating over 27k of tuition fee debt, the governments advice was to peruse a career as either a cake decorator or a football referee.

It is neither my inability to bake or to dribble a ball that make these suggestions so outlandish, but the complete disregard they seem to have for a degree that I have worked so tirelessly to achieve.

I, along with thousands of Art and Creative Arts students, not to mention people already established in the arts, are being told that our crafts, dreams and years of hard work have been in vain. If the Arts are no longer important to the UK, should we simply shut up, give up and find another, more attainable aspiration? Surely a lockdown period without films, TV series, music, podcasts, books and radio would be unthinkable.

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As Arts students, we should not be told by out-of-touch politicians that our aspirations and skills don’t matter simply because there is no room in the current economy for them.

Long periods without social interaction and being trapped inside have proven that the Arts have never been more important. We escape isolation through literature, films and music and stay informed with news and the media.

Even though finding a job in the Arts may be more difficult now than before COVID-19, it is crucial that Art students continue contributing to creativity and culture and don’t feel disillusioned due to the government’s anti-Arts message.

Featured Image: Epigram / Siavash Minoukadeh

Do you think the government's CyberFirst campaign poster was direspectful to Arts students?