Johnny Vegas says high fees will deter poorer arts students

Comedian Johnny Vegas has mounted a heart-felt defence of art school, claiming that the new fees regime will dissuade students from deprived backgrounds studying for creative degrees to the detriment of society.

May 15, 2013

Source: Featureflash /

Mr Vegas, who has a third-class honours degree in art and ceramics from Middlesex University, said he owed all his success to his student years.

Speaking at the “What’s the Point of Art School?” conference, hosted on 14 May by the University of the Arts London, he said: “Going to art school saved me as a young man – it sounds like a massive statement but it’s absolutely true.”

Despite this, he does not believe that he would have followed the same path had the current fees system, which charges students up to £9,000 a year, been in place, as the idea of taking on so much debt would have been too off-putting.

“There is no way on God’s green earth that I would borrow the money now, and do the course that I did that changed my outlook for the rest of my life,” said Mr Vegas, whose real name is Michael Pennington.

“[Art school] taught me to question politics – everything that I see goes through a process because I was encouraged at art school to question.”

Students from wealthier background might not benefit from art school to the same extent, he added. “The ones who are from the right backgrounds, who’ve got the money to come to art school [now], don’t need to question [things] because they’ve got that fucking trust fund,” he said to a round of applause. “I’m sorry, but they have.”

He also hit out at the perception that art is only for the privileged, saying that if only a certain type of person could afford to go to art school, then the study of art would become an “unnecessary thing that belongs to rich people who have too much time on their hands”.

“This is for everybody. Art is ours, but we’re already up against so much within the common psyche - within society – that says [studying art] is a waste of time,” he said.

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