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Following 50% cuts in higher education funding, fewer applicants for creative courses at UK universities have caused a skills shortage. Experts point to a growing reliance on international students to fill the creative skills gap.

The UK may be facing a creativity deficit, with 20% fewer applications for art and design courses at UK universities over the past decade. In the past five years alone, there has been a 12% decline.

These courses play a key role in providing talent to the creative industries, including games, fashion, film, photography, and music, among others.

The main contributors to the drop are the drop in the number of applicants in the UK and the EU. National requests have fallen by 25% in 10 years, while European requests have halved since Brexit.

In contrast, the number of non-EU applicants for creative arts and design courses in the UK has more than doubled over the past 10 years. Over the past five years, it has increased by 44%. Around one in six applications for UK creative courses now come from non-UK citizens.

The data was collected from UCAS via a Freedom of Information request, by specialists in Ultra High Resolution high resolution design textures. The results show the number of applicants and demographic diversity for all creative arts and design courses at UK universities.

Recent reports suggest the booming UK film industry and related sectors will have 40,000 vacancies by 2025, with a serious skills shortage looming on the horizon.

A ripple effect

The UK government has cut higher education funding for art and design courses across England by 50% this academic year.

This sparked a wave of criticism that the cuts misunderstood the role of art in society and predictions that the impacts would ripple through the economy. Industries that rely on both technical and creative skills are reporting skills shortages after Brexit.

The pandemic, skyrocketing popularity of games and Brexit caused a labor shortage in the gambling industry, which relied heavily on talent from the EU. There is demand for those with animation, design and writing skills in the UK games market, which is more than double the size of 10 years ago.

Meanwhile the fashion industry – the UK’s biggest creative industry – which is worth £35billion a year, has warned of a severe talent shortage, with EU workers leaving shortcomings after Brexit. Architecture faces a similar challenge: RIBA’s Future Trends survey reports that one in five firms struggles to recruit.

David Lineton, a still life photographer who leads the team of digital specialists at Ultra High Resolution, said:

“During the pandemic, we have seen the arts suffer greatly, with closures keeping people away from galleries, cinemas and theatres. And funding has been another major issue, with industry players sometimes struggling for revenue, making the field more competitive than ever.

“The nice thing is that the UK’s international reputation for the creative industries continues to shine. And as the UK scene becomes even more diverse, we’re sure to see a truly vibrant industry emerge from the pandemic.

Ste Bergin, film producer and lecturer in the film production course at the University of Salford, said:

“When George Osborne was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he put in place major tax incentives for productions to shoot in the UK. This has allowed the UK to further develop as a cultural powerhouse – and students want to study in this type of environment because it may simply not exist back home. More international talent moving to the UK means more art is being created here, and we have more financial incentive as a country to fund the art of that talent.

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