Osborne’s Nursing Cuts (OR: I already know y’all hate my career choice)

So, Osborne has cut bursaries for nurses. As my post the other day indicated – I’m struggling to see a problem with this. At all. It seems to me that nurses will be better off while at university if they take a student loan instead of a bursary, and it will enable universities to improve their offerings and take more students – which should in turn improve the quality of education and mean that other departments don’t have to fund that degree. As well as meaning that – in the long term – we have more nurses. Great. I’m struggling to see how you can be against that at all.

However I’ve woken up to an explosion of hurtful comments about my choice of degree – and it’s hard not to take it personally. Well, not about my degree specifically, but about how we should – as a nation – not fund ‘pointless’ degrees.

There seems to be a strong belief amongst many that the government should fully fund and bursary ‘essential’ degrees. Largely this includes degrees for teaching, engineering, maths, medicine, nursing, dentistry, etc. And that everyone else should have to pay full price – and often this belief also suggests that we shouldn’t give a student loan to anyone not doing an ‘essential’ degree.

If I had to pick one of those ‘essential’ degrees, I would fail. I failed maths at A Level. I don’t exactly have the bedside manner to be a nurse or a doctor. Engineering largely doesn’t interest me. And teaching children, well, that career is off-limits to me than more reasons than ‘I don’t like children’.

Besides if we *all* did those jobs it would be a total race to the bottom. We’d end up working for nothing because there would be so much competition (oh hey, just like photography and/or the art world can be sometimes/most of the time).

“But” you say “Of course we would limit the amount of people who can do those degrees.” Well, ok. So that means that anyone not capable of doing ‘essential’ degrees has to pay for their own degree. Thus enforcing the two-tier system that the British university system has been trying to move away from for years. If you make people pay for non-essential degrees up front (and pay for their expenses while they do those degrees) then you end up with only the rich being able to afford education. And that would be a very bad thing (again).

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I love this drawing. I’ve seen it pop up time and time again and I think it’s just great. Not because it places art as one of the most important things in an alternative hierarchy of needs, but because I think it reinforces the fact that in our modern society it shouldn’t be about ‘existing’ it should be about living. I think people don’t understand that society is so much wider than just the essentials. Without the complex interaction that compliments the other subjects we’re just fucked. And we’re possibly even more fucked if those complex interactions are led by only those people who can afford to self fund a degree at 18.

But I often feel like people misunderstand what I do on my degree in particular. Art History is a subject that is all about research and analysis. It’s a very powerful degree, it enables you to take both written and visual sources and turn them into something extremely meaningful (well, you hope that anyway). It’s not all about art. Modern art history is as much about the society that creates the art as it is about the way that the works were produced. It is a subject that helps us to make sense of the world around us, to see what has happened in the past and apply those lessons in the future.

It seems that a subject like art history (amongst many others) is as essential to a productive and happy society as any of the aforementioned ‘essential’ subjects. So why do so many people tell me that my degree is worthless, pointless, and a drain on the social benefits system?