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The future of cultural value

Cultural valueWarwick truly values arts, culture and creativity. It’s a thread that has run through our DNA over the past 50 years. From the outset, art was intrinsic to our campus. Its founding architect, Eugene Rosenberg had trained with Le Corbusier in Paris. He conceived modernist buildings characterised by white tiles and ribbons of windows. The structures were adorned with copper light fittings, chrome and rosewood tables, teak chairs and huge colourfield abstract paintings, hung like the flags of the new egalitarian society in the bright spaces of the buildings.

We’re also proud to have Warwick Arts Centre and the Mead Gallery at our heart – both are enthusiastic champions of culture at the University. This can be seen in ‘Imagining a University: 50 Years of the University of Warwick Art Collection’, a Mead Gallery exhibition depicting what shaped the University, and how that in turn shaped the collection.

Our Faculty of Arts leads the nation in teaching and research. Creativity is also vital to WBS which prides itself on bringing creativity and innovation to companies. Warwick truly values arts, culture and creativity. It’s a thread that has run through our DNA over the past 50 years.

However importantly we view the arts, culture and creativity, it’s an unfortunate fact that they are constantly under threat. That’s why we put our energies into investigating the social and economic value that they bring to Britain.

cult quote 1The Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value was set up in the autumn of 2013 to stimulate and facilitate a public conversation on how we invest in and value our cultural life. High-profile cultural professionals, artists, economists and Warwick academics came together to craft a national blueprint for greater cultural and creative success. After gathering evidence and testimony from over 200 individuals from across the arts, culture and heritage sectors, government bodies and academics, the Commission published its report in February 2015.

Entitled Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth, the report aimed to present a clear set of recommendations to energise and raise awareness of culture’s contributions to individuals, society and the economy.

In his introduction to the report, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, the Vice- Chancellor wrote: “Our commissions seek to make a lasting impact on society. We use our intellectual curiosity to analyse challenges that concern our communities, our nation and our world. We then offer practical, realistic recommendations to policymakers on how we can meet those challenges.

Our Commission on the ‘Future of Cultural Value’ is no exception. Provocation was built into the evidencegathering process in the form of lively public debates, which stimulated intense discussion across the country around our investment in the arts, the UK’s cultural education and the role of the culture and creative Industries in carving out Britain’s global status.

The Commission’s report proposes that the concept of creativity is being squeezed out of public education, closing off creative opportunities and cultural experiences to young people.

It found that children born into low-income families with low levels of educational qualifications are the least likely to be employed and succeed in the cultural and creative industries; engage with and appreciate the arts and heritage in the curriculum; experience culture as part of their home education and have parents who value and identify with publically funded arts and heritage.

England has seen a significant decline in state schools offering arts subjects taught by specialist teachers. Policymakers are often obsessed with a silo subject-based curriculum and an early specialisation in sciences or the arts. It’s an approach that negates discussion around the need for children to enjoy an education that encourages creativity, enterprise and digital innovation.

To address these issues, the Commission put forward a string of recommendations. It stated that no school should be designated ‘outstanding’ without evidence of an excellent cultural and creative education. It believed the Arts Council England target of 50%, schools having an ArtsMark award should be supported and encouraged by school inspectors and the Department for Education. It also sought the inclusion of an arts or media subject in the English Baccalaureate – the hope is that this would improve the visibility of the arts and increase incentives for young people to combine science and arts subjects at Key Stage 4.

The Commission also recommended that the government should increase funding to help disadvantaged children access culture and ensure that all children receive a cultural education up to the age of 16. It also recommended that they should work with the Creative Industries Federation to develop a national grid of providers to ensure that all children can freely access and learn from local opportunities for artistic and creative extra-curricular activities.

The report also called on the government to ensure appropriate access to training for creative and cultural industries programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and that there should be a national Creative Apprenticeship Scheme.

According to Vikki Heywood, Chair of the Commission, the key messages to take from the report centre around unity and equality. If the government and creative industries adopt a united and coherent approach, they can work towards everyone’s equal access to a rich cultural education.

As Vikki said, “There are barriers and inequalities in Britain today that prevent this from being a universal human right. This is bad for business and bad for society.”

To find out more about the findings of the Warwick Commission, visit

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