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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jun-18 > Do we undervalue the arts in favour of science?

Do we undervalue the arts in favour of science?

YES Over the last 15 years or so, there has been a concerted effort by advocates for science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) education in the UK to win greater support. Ministers now actively encourage students to pursue Stem subjects, promising that this will guarantee jobs and upward social mobility. In 2014, then minister for education Nicky Morgan declared: “The arts and humanities were [once] what you chose because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course, we know now that couldn’t be further from the truth—that the subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock the door to all sorts of careers are the Stem subjects.” (The 2010 Browne review suggested removing direct funding for humanities subjects.)

It is simply not true that there are no jobs on the other end of a humanities degree. In 2016, the creative industries contributed £91.8bn to the UK economy, more than engineering, life sciences and the energy sectors combined. The last thing I want to do, as chair of public understanding of the humanities at the University of London, is steer people away from Stem. I want to steer them towards subjects in which they are likely to excel, to bring value to their own lives.

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In Prospect’s June issue: Isabel Hilton, Rana Mitter, Kerry Brown and Yuan Ren debate the rise of China and what it means for the UK and the rest of the world. Hilton argues that China’s ideas could dominate the next century, just as American ideas dominated the last. Rana Mitter charts how those ideas have developed from Confucius to modern political theorist Wang Huning. Kerry Brown explores how Australia is dealing with the rise of China, by reimagining itself as an Asian country and drifting from the US. Yuan Ren asks whether China’s young people will forge a new path for the country in the coming decades. Elsewhere in the issue: Steve Bloomfield explores Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy, asking whether Britain would become a silent protester on the global sideline; Jonathan Liew asks if the World Cup has seen better days; Miranda France explores the life and meaning of Frida Kahlo, and Simon Jenkins says Trump’s charge through the China shop of world affairs is not all bad news.