Let's change the world for art students in 2014

Students, teachers and artists must unite to reverse the setbacks suffered by art education

Funding cuts and a move to banish art lessons from schools made 2013 a sad year for creative education. But art students and their staff are regrouping for a fight they believe is there to be won.

The number of students applying to study creative arts at university is on the decline. According to the latest available data from Ucas, the number of applications fell 17% from 2011 to 2012.

In 2011, 303,204 applied, and 53,258 were accepted. In 2012, those numbers fell to 253,140 and 47,736, little surprise in a context of huge cuts to the Arts Council, high tuition fees and a cost of living crisis.

Unless they come from privileged backgrounds, art students battle to make ends meet. Viana Gaudino, a foundation student at Central Saint Martins, says: "Many of us are struggling with living costs. We are expected to pay for our own materials and many students cannot afford to use the best. This directly affects the standard of work being produced."

Gaudino stresses the urgent need for the government to provide grants to arts students. "Students from ordinary backgrounds simply cannot afford the cost of directly paying for their education. It would be great to see students from different backgrounds getting involved in design. For this to happen, we'd need to introduce a grant that covers the expenses of being at art school."

The national campaigns for fair pay in colleges and universities are being fought in art schools, too. With teaching budgets having taken a big hit in art and design, the national pay offer is highlighting a battle between staff and senior management. While art technicians and lecturers have been subject to 13% real terms pay cutsvice-chancellors are still awarding themselves above-inflation pay rises.

Gaudino supported staff at her university who went on strike recently over pay cuts: "I hope students and staff continue to strike for fair pay and issues surrounding funding, so that 2014 will be a year of positive change in both further and higher education."

Kyran Joughin, a senior lecturer at University of the Arts London (UAL), shares these hopes: "I am forecasting unity among teachers and students. I really feel the momentum is there, as never before in the last 10 years."

© Ruth Zoe Andreas, all rights reserved