Arts bias is costly

April 7, 2006

Last month, The Times Higher suggested that I somehow disagreed with Boris Johnson's view that if students "can benefit from (a degree) they should be given every opportunity to do so" ("Boris gets sinking feeling as ships shadow sticks oar in", March 17). Last week, Ian Eiloart (Letters) claimed that I am against plumbers getting degrees.

In fact, I wholeheartedly endorse Johnson's view. Of course those who can benefit from university should have the opportunity. What The Times Higher and Eiloart ignore is the range of papers - most recently from Swan-sea University - showing that many people studying traditional arts subjects are economically penalised when the costs of their degrees are weighed against subsequent earnings prospects.

Furthermore, engineering and science courses are closing (even in sectors where graduates enjoy large premiums in employment) in part because of the unfairness of the funding formula.

With a wife working in the building industry and a father owning a small business in furniture restoration, I hear at first hand of artisan skills shortages. It is surely in everyone's interests that the prejudice in favour of arts degrees and against engineering, scientific and vocational courses (at university and elsewhere) be addressed.

Julian Brazier MP
Shadow Minister for Aviation and Shipping

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