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Arts degrees become the preserve of the wealthy
Study shows wealthiest students dominate humanities and academics fear tuition fee rises will deepen problem

Fears are growing of a "gentrification" of arts and humanities degrees as new figures reveal that the courses have become the preserve of wealthy students.

Statistics released to the Observer by the Sutton Trust, an influential education charity, show that 31% of those who graduated in 2008 with degrees in history or philosophy were the children of senior managers – the socio-economic group with the highest income. Across all English university courses, an average of 27% of graduates were from this group.

Language graduates were also disproportionately from the wealthiest homes, with 30% from the highest income group. In comparison, non-arts and humanities courses – with the exception of medicine and dentistry – had far fewer students from the highest-income group. Just 17% for education, 22% for computer sciences and 23% for business studies were from the wealthiest homes. For medicine and dentistry, the proportion was 47%.

The data are part of a forthcoming study in conjunction with the London School of Economics that was done before changes that could further deter low- and middle-income students from applying for arts and humanities courses.

When Lord Browne, the former BP chief executive, publishes his review into university funding next month, he is expected to recommend to ministers that tuition fees – currently £3,290 a year for undergraduates – should rise to as much as £5,000 or £7,000 from 2013.

Browne is likely to propose generous help for poor students, but academics fear that a rise in fees could turn poorer teenagers away from degrees in the arts and humanities in favour of career-oriented courses.

For the full article

The Guardian