The risk of the teaching excellence framework producing “perverse” results for creative subjects is firmly within the sights of a new group set up by the Creative Industries Federation to hone its response to the Green Paper and respond to other threats to “the fastest-growing sector of the economy”.
The federation was launched in 2014 and now has about 700 members, among them higher education institutions, employers, arts venues and organisations such as the British Film Institute, the Crafts Council and the National Centre for Circus Arts.
Among its core goals, says director of policy Harriet Finney, is “ensuring the right workforce is there for the fastest-growing sector of the economy”. To help “gather evidence for putting our case to government”, the federation has set up “an ongoing forum to discuss hot policy topics”.
Issues up for debate are likely to include apprenticeships, careers advice, the implications of the UK’s leaving the European Union, and the role of higher education in culture-led regeneration and the creation of great cities. Yet the first meeting on 14 January focused firmly on education.
“The government has not been sufficiently joined up in its thinking about what it does at schools and college level and how that affects the pipeline through to university and employment in the creative industries,” said working group chair Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts London.
Along with concerns about how the promotion of the English Baccalaureate could dissuade pupils from pursuing creative subjects in schools, he was worried about how proposals for the use of some metrics in the TEF would be “likely to lead to some very perverse results”.
While “other sectors tend to generate a quick employed career with a higher salary”, explained Mr Carrington, many graduates in the creative sector “work freelance and in portfolio careers hard to capture in metrics which use raw data on earnings”.
Another inappropriate measure would be the proportion of full-time teaching staff, given the long tradition of arts colleges and music conservatoires, for example, employing “practitioners who teach part-time”.
Furthermore, Mr Carrington pointed to Britain’s “big export industry in creative education”. Given the relatively high costs of delivering many courses, institutions such as his were highly dependent on international students. Any system of kitemarks for teaching excellence risked damaging many British universities’ excellent international reputations, he warned.