There has been a focus on STEM subjects for many years now with Government funding committed to ensure admissions stay high and fill skills gaps in the economy. The investment seems to be working with HESA admissions data for STEM showing an annual increase of 6.25% for the most recent period (up to 2019).

For AHSS, the admissions levels are slightly lower but the number of programmes available and therefore students commencing AHSS masters degrees is significantly higher.

This leads to the question “what about the creative industry?”

According to the Creative Industries Council the creative industries contributed £111.7bn of value to the UK in 2018.

Though the economy has stalled over the period of the lockdowns the forecasts are that it will bounce back very strongly, particularly in the leisure and service sectors which have been on pause for most of the past year.

Jobs lost in these businesses will be replaced, and many organisations will be embracing the opportunity to allow for flexible connected working.

New business start-ups will require all the skills that are the cornerstone of the creative and social sciences curriculum.

So, what does this mean for students considering arts, humanities and social sciences at postgraduate level?

Over the past 12 months we have seen interest in AHSS courses increase by 66% for subject searches and an uplift of 20% amongst those looking at funding opportunities. This commitment to research into these subject areas shows an engaged audience taking the time to consider their route into the sectors through further study.

Following the news about the planned cuts, the sector response so far has focused on the immediate picture, but we know that this will have a knock-on effect on PGT courses. Most likely in three years’ time when students finish their UG studies and look towards their next steps.

But why does it have to be either STEM or AHSS from both a study or funding perspective?

Arts graduates are well placed to take up job opportunities when they are available. If there are career pathways that need a science focus, then Conversion courses are a great option.

They work extremely well for graduates who want to capitalise their arts study and apply for more STEM related roles in the labour market. Having a blended skill set will certainly set them apart from other candidates in a competitive marketplace.

However, the funding issue is never going to go away, particularly for postgraduate research. Announcements from the UKRI regarding the savings required in Official Development Assistance (ODA) research and innovation will have an effect in the longer term as this applies to both STEM and AHSS Research.

So, the future for postgraduate AHSS study is still very positive, it will just require a lot more effort into getting across the benefits. The content that universities share on our websites about their programmes and facilities will help to explain the options and provide students with choices.

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