Internationally, arts and humanities education is dangerously underfunded.
Traditionally, the humanities has been seen as critical to the enrichment and exploration of academia. Studies have shown that a degree in the humanities comes with long-term, delayed gratification contrary to degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Yet, this hasn’t stopped lawmakers from finding ways to cut funding for arts programs.
In July 2021, England had cut arts funding by 50%, “despite a national campaign and much public outcry,” said Kimberly Burton for the Political Studies Association.
Burton found that the government would “encourage more students to take STEM degrees, leaving arts and humanities degrees to bear the brunt of these changes.”
Other parts of the world show the same pattern.
“China’s government allocated 100% of its research funding to top universities with concentrations on STEM disciplines, whereas South Korea and Japan allotted 62% and 35% respectively,” wrote Marcene Robinson for the University of Buffalo in April 2020.
A MATTER OF POLITICS
Anna Bernhard received degrees from Bates College, Trinity College Dublin, and the Pratt Institute before becoming the Director of the Stanley G. Wold Resource Center for Colorado State University.
Here, she researches and finds academic and visual resources to further the artistic expression and scholarship of students.
“What’re we asking from higher education? Are we asking for these critical thinking, deep thinking, deep reading skills? Are we asking for job preparedness? And it doesn’t need to be an either-or,” says Bernhard.
Universally, the transactional nature between universities and their surroundings can often dictate how universities will fund their subjects.
“You cannot divorce the university’s reality from the physical realities beyond higher education,” Bernhard says.
THE IMPACT ON STUDENTS
Subsequently, with many universities focusing their funding to STEM, arts and humanities students must adjust to lower funding.
Due to such, the lack of proper funding leads liberal arts students to build resilience.
“We can only hope that the administration will see the potential we, as a department, have if given the financial support that STEM-focused majors have,” says Eliana Mascarenas.
Mascarenas is a Colorado, U.S.A. native studying Musical Theater at Drake University in Iowa, U.S.A. As a student, she reports that her university’s Performing Arts Hall stands in disrepair with patched walls and lights that leak when it rains. The tools used to build sets are outdated as well, often leading the department to settle for less.
Mascarenas says, “It sucks that Drake’s administration doesn’t support the arts as much as other programs, but I think that gives myself – and the rest of the department – all the more motivation.”
Similarly, Bernhard also sees a growth in resilience among arts students due to the lack of funding provided.
“I think that [students] are more robust in understanding the nuanced nature of their skill sets that they’re coming away from and that they do believe in a more cultivation model,” says Bernhard. “It’s important to balance what’s meaningful in terms of enrichment versus transactional.”
Internationally, shifting funding accommodations finds the arts and humanities shunt aside or often vacant from the conversation.