The United Kingdom is between a rock and a hard place in the lead up to exiting the European Union. One of the concerns is that with a hard Brexit, EU students may not form part of the makeup of engineering professionals in the country’s future. Thus, more British-born students are being encouraged to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) qualifications.
The Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May, has used reverse-psychology to encourage more students to invest in STEM qualifications rather than in the humanities. The plan includes making arts studies cheaper than more STEM-focused qualifications. Essentially, she wants to devalue the arts.
The government will suggest that majoring in the arts may lead to ‘lower earning potential’ for students, whereas STEM degrees offer higher monthly salaried jobs. These suggested revisions are part of May’s current university ‘overhaul’ plan - a plan she is hoping may provide England’s students with improved education.
Nicky Morgan, a former education secretary, talking to the Evening Standard doesn’t believe devaluing BA degrees is a good one. She said:
“We want everybody to feel that all careers are open to them. If those who are struggling to afford university in the first place feel they cannot do a STEM degree because it is too expensive, ultimately it is the country that will suffer.”
Alongside this students in the United Kingdom are demanding that the government provides free education - a call that has been echoing in many universities around the world. Fees for courses in the UK can reach a maximum of £9,250 per year (US$ 12,866), with interest rates of 6.1% on any student loans. UK universities are among the most expensive in the world, next to the United States.
Putting arts into engineering
Qualification costs aside – there is an interesting push to embed the arts into engineering education. Among other benefits, such as improved communication skills, there is the belief that the arts may well enhance engineering designs.
Océane Boulais was the Hispanic Professional Engineering’s Extreme Engineer of the Year in 2014. Giving a TEDx Talk in 2015, she used Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs as examples of minds who expertly crafted artistic elements into engineering and scientific elements.
She is an advocate of putting the A in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics.
She too highlights the fact that liberal arts qualifications get little funding compared to STEM qualifications. Yet, if STEAM-focused creators such as Da Vinci, Einstein, and Jobs created some of the most renowned products, then liberal arts should be more respected in STEM qualifications, Boulais argues.
“Integrating Art with STEM Education | Océane Boulais | TEDxBocaRaton.” YouTube, 5 May 2015, youtu.be/DjpWQkmopgY.
“Theresa May Warned Cheap Fees for Arts Courses 'Risk Driving Poor Students Away from Science and Tech'.” Evening Standard, 19 Feb. 2018, www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-may-warned-cheap-fees-for-arts-courses-risk-driving-poor-students-away-from-science-and-tech-a3770291.html.