Universities and colleges should do more to promote the benefits of their arts courses, the Arts Council said this week.
They ought to be clearer and more open about the kinds of skills and experience arts students gain which could be useful in a wide variety of jobs, according to Christopher Frayling, the new chairman of the Arts Council's education and training advisory panel.
Launching a consultation paper on arts education funding, Professor Frayling suggested that the arts in further and higher education had fallen behind other subject areas in defining the qualities required of their students.
With growth in the number of arts graduates outstripping expansion in employment opportunities in the arts, this could make it hard for institutions to bid for more funding to support their arts courses.
"Institutions need to be a lot more articulate about aspects of their courses which are not narrow professional training. They need to show that arts education is a way of learning which can lead to other kinds of work," he said.
The green paper, which is intended to prompt institutions and individuals to consider the division of funding responsibilities for the arts, points out that demand for arts courses has continued despite the jobs shortage.
"Continued expansion in this sector will place pressure upon providers and has the potential to present important challenges for the arts sector, in terms of participation, audience growth and career development," it says.
Consultation will run alongside discussions of proposed new Lottery programmes which could release millions of pounds for arts education and training. The two will be drawn together in a White Paper on arts education and training to be published in the autumn.
Though the White Paper is unlikely to bring proposals for more funding which would flow directly to universities and colleges, further and higher education should benefit indirectly. Maggie Semply, the Arts Council's director of education and training, said it could mean more support for artists to teach in universities and colleges or to take courses themselves. More backing for arts education on teacher training courses may also be considered.
Professor Frayling said the green paper amounted to a "mapping" of funding responsibilities which should help institutions see where they stand in relation to various funding bodies.
But it is unlikely to come up with any solutions to the faltering discretionary awards system, which research has shown is leaving many dance and drama students without financial support.
That is to be tackled by a working group led by Clive Priestley, chairman of the London Arts Board, which is to analyse the situtation and make recommendations next month to Sir Ron Dearing's higher education review.