I love my art – do I need to go to university?

Choosing between university and the world of work is hard, what are the pros and cons?

I love my art – do I need to go to university?

It is that time of the year again when students are deciding what the next best step is for them. We are finishing off coursework, revising for final exams and trying to plan what is meant to be the best Summer of our lives. Some know that university is the way for them; aspiring doctors, lawyers, vets and architects usually agree that higher education is the way forward for them to achieve their dream careers.

But what about artists? If you perform, whether it be in dance, music, theatre or anything similar, there is not a set path. Doing a three-year degree course won't land you with a lead in the West End's next major production or a gig backing singing for Beyoncé per sé. With university fees reaching record breaking highs, there is constant questioning as to whether university is worth it for a creative study.

There are some fantastic courses out there covering a huge range of subjects; musician-actor courses are on the rise and it is now more common for contemporary dance to be studied at a higher level whereas, in the past, only classical dance styles tended to be formally studied past post-16. In most course structures, there is the option of different types of units; if you are an artist interested in a range of different aspects of your art, you have the possibility to study them.

As much as students go to university to study their chosen degree, the lifestyle it entails is also a deciding factor for many. You can leave home with the safety of student finance, meet new people and try new things that you may not have done before. Many people use university to decide what sort of people they are and who they like to be around. You often hear people say that the friends they make at university and the friends they keep for life.

Despite all these great things about university, there is so much scope for a D.I.Y. freelance career in the arts. Anyone can make a website, record in their bedrooms, rehearse with their friends and put on their own exhibition. With the right self-motivation and passion, you can often achieve a hugely successful career and without the £30,000+ debt. Going straight into the industry is not uncommon in the arts and most seniors worked their way up from the bottom. Whether that was by doing an internship on less than minimum wage or being the designated coffee kid for two years, everyone has started somewhere.

Despite funding cuts and trivialisation of the arts on the Conservative's part, it is still an exciting time for young artists. We are surrounded by inspiration, whether it be positive or negative, and with more accessibility to affordable equipment and services, we can channel these feelings – whatever they may be. Going to university should not affect the way you view your future, it is one small part of your life; it is not a reflection of who you are as an artist or person.

Photo: Stephen Shepard


  • Luke Taylor

    On 25 April 2017, 10:48 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    This is actually really inspiring to read. I feels really unfair to be charging £9,000+ for a creative arts degree that may or may not even give you the support you need. I'd prefer going straight into the world of work, where you can gain a lifetime of experience without being thousands of pounds in debt.

  • Jen  Farrant

    On 25 April 2017, 12:46 Jen Farrant Staff commented:

    I would say if you want to be an artist do everything you can not to saddle yourself with debt.

    If I was doing it now I would advise getting a part time job in anything and then interning/volunteering as much as possible.

    Travel. Go and do cool things!

    Get a job in the industry, go and offer to support an artist that you really love. Use instagram and a website to show your work all the time. Build a community around yourself, that's the main thing you get from universty anyway!

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