Mapping Provision and Investigating Participation in Postgraduate Art and Design|
Pollard E, Connor H, Hunt W
National Arts Learning Network, June 2008
a study commissioned by the National Arts Learning Network (NALN)
The overall aim of this research study was to provide the National Arts Learning Network (NALN) with a statistical analysis of the provision of postgraduate study in creative arts and design (CAD) subjects across the UK, and participation in such study by learners from different backgrounds. It also explored progression from undergraduate to postgraduate study and beyond, and the perceptions of potential postgraduate students. It complements the more qualitative research on the experiences and understandings of actual and potential CAD postgraduate students from a range of backgrounds being undertaken by investigators at the Open University.
There were two main strands to the quantitative research: secondary analysis of data supplied to IES by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in special data runs for the years 2003/04 – 2005/06, one on students and the other on graduate destinations; and surveys of final year undergraduates and of applicants to masters courses at NALN member institutions. The research was undertaken during 2006 and 2007. The findings provide a wealth of new baseline evidence for the NALN to use in its work on developing progression routes for students from non-traditional qualifications and work-experience backgrounds.
Understanding the data
In order to be clear on what the evidence on provision and participation in postgraduate study means, it is important to define clearly the coverage of the HESA data and definitions used in the analysis. This is set out in detail in Chapter 1. The main focus is postgraduate programmes defined by level (ie higher degrees, diplomas and certificates), taken full- or part-time by home (ie UK domiciled) students at a UK higher education institution (HEI), although some of the analysis covers NALN member institutions only (specialist arts colleges and universities in the network). An area of contention can be where to draw subject boundaries. The analysis takes mainly a broad definition of creative arts and design (referred to as CAD) which covers the standard Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) subject group ‘W’ (a narrower definition) and part or all of related subjects (like architecture, publishing, landscape design, media studies) which are in other JACS subject groups. This approach was undertaken to fit better with how NALN members view the subject area, but different definitions and scope can lead to variations in assessing student numbers and patterns, which can be confusing.
Provision of postgraduate study across the UK
Taking the broader definition of the CAD subject area:
- Around five per cent of the total UK-domiciled postgraduate population are studying CAD subjects (20,000 students). The total CAD postgraduate provision across the UK is higher (31,000), as around one-third of the total student population come from outside of the UK (the rest of the EU and further overseas), a higher percentage than in the postgraduate population overall.
- Postgraduate level CAD study is offered at almost all UK HEIs, but student numbers vary widely between institutions and courses. Together, the NALN member institutions account for nearly 12 per cent of the total CAD postgraduate student population (20 per cent if the narrower CAD subject definition, see above, is used). The two largest NALN member postgraduate providers are the University of Arts, London and the Royal College of Art. A number of non-NALN institutions have significant numbers of CAD postgraduates (eg Goldsmiths College; University of the West of England, Bristol; University of Central England, Birmingham; Middlesex University), with additional others for the related CAD subjects (eg University of Wales, Aberystwyth; City University; London Metropolitan University).
- There is a regional dimension to CAD postgraduate provision, with students concentrated in London, although other strong regions include the South East, North West and South West (and Scotland for CAD related disciplines). This distribution corresponds closely with the distribution of NALN institutions. This regional pattern may impact on progression to postgraduate study, particularly for students outside of these regions who are less mobile due to family or work commitments or financial constraints.
- Taught masters programmes are the most popular type of CAD postgraduate study, and even more so than for postgraduate study overall. CAD masters are more likely to be taken through full-time rather than part-time study, in contrast to all subjects where part-time study is more prevalent. Masters courses and full-time postgraduate study are more prevalent in NALN institutions than elsewhere. Thus, a wider range of postgraduate level qualifications and more flexible modes of study seem to be being offered outside of the network which may impact on the type of students NALN members attract.
Widening participation and diversity
- Postgraduate CAD students are younger and more likely to hold a first degree than the average postgraduate student, although there is a sizeable minority who come to postgraduate study in CAD later in their careers (aged 50 and over). CAD courses have a better representation of male students than across all postgraduate study, especially in related CAD disciplines (although males are still outnumbered by females), but they have a poorer representation of black and minority ethnic students. Compared to all postgraduate CAD students, NALN students are more likely to be younger, female and white.
- Some differences are evident in choice of postgraduate study by age, gender and ethnicity. Women are considerably more likely to study at taught masters level than men, as are black students (which appears to be a recent pattern); whereas doctoral study is more common amongst male students and older individuals. Asian students are relatively more likely than students of other ethnic backgrounds to study towards postgraduate diplomas or certificates. Older students are much more likely to study part-time as are black students, but there is little difference in modes of study found by gender. It is important to be aware of these differences when institutions are looking at ways of increasing the diversity of their student populations. Disappointingly, there are no reliable data available on socio-economic status to explore differences in choices.
- There are noticeable gender, and also age, differences in subject choice: male students are more likely to choose architecture, music, media and cinematics, whereas female students are relatively more likely to be studying information services (including curatorial studies), fine art, design, drama, journalism and imaginative writing. Older students prefer fine art, music and imaginative writing; and younger students have a greater tendency towards architecture, media and journalism. Design studies is equally popular across all age groups.
- An undergraduate qualification is the key entry route to postgraduate study in CAD, particularly at masters level, and is more predominant than in masters provision overall. The entry profile across the group of NALN institutions mirrors this pattern. Very few enter via APEL arrangements.
Flows from undergraduate to postgraduate study
- According to the HESA data on destinations of HE leavers, around one in four UK graduates go on to further study or training within six months of completing their undergraduate course (but more will do so later). Of these, eight per cent take further study in a ‘creative’ field or discipline, with almost one-third of this group taking a postgraduate course (such as a masters). If they choose to study in the creative disciplines, it is more likely to be: graphic art and design, journalism and editing, music, art, or architecture.
- CAD graduates are less likely to go straight on to postgraduate study (of any kind ie level or subject) than other graduates in general. However, CAD graduates choosing to move on to further study are equally likely to take a masters course but are much less likely to take professional qualifications or research higher degrees than graduates from other subjects. Those CAD graduates that do continue in study are relatively more likely to go on to study full-time, study at a NALN member institution and study in a creative field. They are less likely to fund their study through sponsorship or support from their employer than graduates generally.
- The general pattern for graduates continuing in study is that it is more common amongst black and minority ethnic rather than white graduates, for first degree graduates with a higher level of attainment (generally moving on to research and taught masters courses) and for those with other undergraduate qualifications – who are essentially topping up their foundation degrees, diplomas or certificates to a first degree qualification. It is less likely among those who come into their undergraduate level study from the vocational qualification route. These patterns are also seen for CAD graduates with a couple of exceptions: a relatively lower proportion of those with first class degrees go directly on to further study than found across all undergraduates; and a higher proportion with foundation degrees, certificates and diplomas do so than found for undergraduates as a whole, ie it is more common to ‘top up’ one’s qualifications.
- However, it is very likely that others will go on to further study in the medium to longer-term rather than directly after undergraduate study, and so this is an underestimation of the likely flow into postgraduate study in CAD subjects. This is indicated by the postgraduate HESA student data (above), which shows CAD postgraduates are relatively more likely to enter with a first degree than found for other courses. This group of undergraduates may feel they need some time in the labour market before undertaking further study. We also found that over half of the final year students surveyed (see below) who were likely to apply for a postgraduate course, did not intend doing so for a year or two.
Why go on from undergraduate to postgraduate study?
- The survey of final year undergraduates at NALN institutions, who were mostly taking first degrees, showed that just under a quarter were thinking about continuing study in creative arts and design after completing their current course, but most had no definite career in mind at this stage. Over half of them had already applied or were likely to apply at some time in the future for a CAD postgraduate course, and most were confident about being accepted. There was a preference for masters courses and full-time study, and likely subjects tended to reflect their undergraduate study, though there was some uncertainty on choices. There was more uncertainty about institutional choice, though the greater likelihood was to intend to stay where they had taken their undergraduate course.
- A range of reasons was given for thinking about taking a postgraduate course, but the main one was the development of further knowledge and skills. Others of importance included personal interest, to improve career prospects and enjoyment of a current course. Few potential barriers were seen. Reasons why students were not considering postgraduate study were more to do with a wish to finish studying for the time-being, a desire to go into work and a lack of interest rather than any specific barrier. The only real barrier cited was the expense involved.
- Furthermore, all the final year students surveyed had mostly positive views on the individual benefits to be gained from postgraduate study, such as being able to specialise, increasing self confidence and being able to ‘network’ with other artists and designers. They also saw benefits in providing skills that would help them in their employment, and would make them more attractive generally to employers.
- There was more uncertainty, however, as to the specific premium that a postgraduate qualification would give them in the labour market, and how essential it was to have one in order to work in the creative industries. There was also some uncertainty as to whether the financial costs of doing it were worthwhile and how much of a deterrent the high cost of studying actually was. Though financial issues are a concern, on balance there seemed to be more support for the ‘benefits outweighing the cost’ arguments.
Applicants’ behaviour and views
- Further insights into motivations for applying to postgraduate study and the characteristics and behaviour of applicants came from the survey of applicants at a sample of NALN institutions. They had a more varied age profile, including a quarter aged over 35 years, but mainly traditional education backgrounds for entry to postgraduate study: four out of five were studying for or already held a BA/BSc degree, and for two-thirds, a first degree was their highest qualification (or going to be). Just under one-third had taken previously, or were studying currently for, a vocational qualification (but they could also have academic pre-HE qualifications for example, A-levels). Only a quarter were applying for a postgraduate course while currently studying, and it was more common for them to have taken a break before re-entering higher education. Over 40 per cent of applicants were working in the creative sector at the time of making their application(s).
- The applicants had a similar set of motivations for applying for a postgraduate place as the final year students in the other survey, mainly relating to skill development and employability, and also enjoyment/interest and social/networking reasons. Part-time course applicants were more likely to cite personal and interest reasons than full-time applicants.
- Course content and the reputation of the institution were the main factors influencing decisions on where to apply, but other important factors included location, links with industry, facilities and likely employment prospects. Course fees were less important relative to these factors generally, but had more of an influence with some groups (part-timers, black and minority ethnic applicants). Factors of comparatively less influence generally included diversity of (an institution’s) student body, entry requirements and having a part-time option, but these were of more importance to some students.
- The majority had applied to just one university or college, and most were successful in getting offers. A wide range of institutions had been applied to, including both NALN members and the main CAD postgraduate non-NALN providers. One in six had previously studied at their preferred institution for postgraduate study, an indication of a degree of mobility within the HE sector. A wide range of subject preferences was given but most reflected previous subjects (of their highest qualification). The process of applying did not present any serious difficulties for most people, with a number of factors in the selection process given similar importance in applicants’ minds (portfolios, interview performance, good degree, references and relevant work experience).
- The main ways applicants intended funding their study was going to be by use of savings and earnings from paid work; bursaries and loans were also likely to be important sources of finance. Finance was a main concern of applicants, especially the fees and also the cost of materials. Coping with workload was another concern, especially for applicants to part-time courses and older applicants, who in turn were slightly less concerned about financial matters than others. The financial costs of studying also featured strongly in responses by applicants to a more general question on their attitudes towards postgraduate study but, as in the finalists’ survey, so did its value in the labour market and perceived benefits. These included the opportunities it gave to network with other professionals in the creative industries and to improve employment prospects, and also the development of skills for self employment and improved earning potential.
- Looking further ahead, the majority of applicants had relatively clear career plans, such as to work as an artist, in fashion or textiles and teaching or research. These are similar to actual destinations of postgraduates (see below), but contrast with final year undergraduate students’ views who had much less definite career plans.
Flows into the labour market
- Finally, the HESA data also gave insights into actual destinations of postgraduate students (in the same way as they do for undergraduates, see above). Going on to work, particularly full-time work, after completing postgraduate study is less common amongst those from CAD courses than from taught masters courses as a whole. However, those from CAD taught masters programmes who do go on to work are more likely to be in part-time work, be working freelance (or self employed), on short fixed-term contracts or in temporary work than taught masters postgraduates as a whole. This could indicate more flexible employment but less stability. They are also much less likely to be in a job where their level of qualification was a formal entry requirement, or at least was an advantage. This could have implications for the perceived quality of employment experiences.
- Personal contacts and networking are seen as particularly key to gaining work for CAD taught masters postgraduates, and over one-third of their employment is concentrated in London. Approximately half are working in creative occupations, key occupations being: artist, graphic designer, and product/clothing designer; and approximately two- fifths are in creative sectors working for organisations that undertake cultural, film and TV, entertainment, artistic and literary, arts and news activities.
- The propensity within the CAD postgraduate group to get a job varies. Going into employment directly after postgraduate study is less likely for older CAD postgraduates but this is opposite to the pattern found for all postgraduates, where moving into employment increases with age. This may indicate that older creative arts and design postgraduates are finding it harder to gain work after completing their studies or it may be that they are less likely to be looking for work, which would fit with the young profile of the creative industries. Also, there is very little ethnic difference in propensity to get work after taught CAD masters (narrow definition), but this is in contrast to the pattern across all postgraduates.
- These findings on postgraduate employment outcomes would benefit from further research investigations in order to help support and prepare postgraduate students better for their future careers.
Mapping Provision and Investigating Participation in Postgraduate Art and Design, Pollard E, Connor H, Hunt W. , National Arts Learning Network, 2008.
ISBN: (no ISBN). Bound copy: £free