Arts Emergency

An arts degree interacts with our lives in ways more academic degrees cannot

Vicky Smith studied BA Creative Media Writing with Health studies at Middlesex University and she continues to use my degree every day.

My blog is and on twitter: @vickyann_smith.

Choosing a university course felt daunting, the thick UCAS books blurred under my eyes and with unsure grades looming, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go; like most students I did not have a career path but each of the courses interesting me had one thing in common, they were BA’s.
For a long time being a geologist was my dream but those nasty self-doubts stopped me believing I could do it, I left science behind and discovered being creative quietened those inner voices. Finding a degree where I could study and write stories for three years changed my attitude about going to university, I couldn’t wait to leave. Science is still a love as deep as writing stories is and through my BA I learnt I could combine the two – science fiction.
An arts degree interacts with our lives in ways more academic degrees cannot, there is a stronger link to how we live and morals over factual information; in many courses there is less emphasis on exams. You can link different types of courses together, during my time as a student I mixed Italian and health studies with creative writing. The year I started, barely able to communicate, I was unable to talk in front of 5 people; my course forced me to open up and share my work, my beliefs and my confidence. On graduation I held a microphone and spoke to a room full of strangers.
The decision of which university seemed as impossible as the course, the environment where you study is just as important; the small Tottenham campus of Middlesex University swayed my mind, terrified of crowds but captured by the big city it was the perfect solution. Back then the fees were a blanket figure over most institutions and never factored into the equation. I cannot say this would be the same if I was picking a course today; money has always been a worry for students, loans and bills easily overwhelm and with bigger debts looming, fees may well be the biggest decider.
It was no secret the university struggled financially and knowing the weaknesses of the university, our tutors sensitive to the situation created a welcoming space and students experienced it all together. We heard about threatened closures of campuses each term, rumours and then after I graduated the beer stopped flowing, lectures ended and Tottenham campus locked its gates. Students crammed into Trent Park with double booked rooms but as the teething problems eased the BA courses moulded to accommodate change and found even more subjects to combine too.
Having been lucky to experience a BA, with no regret I look over my shoulder and if I went back I hope I would explore other arts. Maybe the higher tuition fees would help me make the most of every day; it cannot take anything away from the university experience if we keep fighting for the courses we have worked hard to get into.
My heart tears at the idea of a huge glass building in place of a historic campus; funding cuts are going to affect more campuses around the country, meaning the smaller they become, the smaller the choice of courses available. BA’s are no less valuable than any other degree and while higher fees make the decision harder, I wouldn’t change the route I have taken.

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