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Remember what it was like choosing a university course? Choosing between a vocational and academic course is like being stuck between a rock and a hard place, especially with unemployment for under 25's at an all time high of 20.4% as of February this year and the Government’s fees rise coming into play in 2012. If you want a career as a lawyer, doctor or architect where you are guaranteed high wages after graduation, spending tens of thousands of pounds on a university education may seem justified, but what if your calling is in the arts? Well luckily, help may be at hand. The Arts Emergency Service (AES) is a charity, set up by comedian Josie Long and her friend and fundraiser Neil Griffiths. They believe that an arts degree is not a luxury and that the decision to study for a degree should be based on talent and passion rather than a financial trade-off between debt and future earnings. Neil revealed they'd been talking about starting an arts based charity for some time, after meeting at a benefit gig Neil had arranged for a different charity. “It’s excellent to finally be doing it – we both come from the same area and both had similar issues growing up and with Higher Education. So it all kind of fell into place naturally. It’s been so interesting getting to grips with all the different issues around participation and funding – interesting but astoundingly hard work of course!” The charity aims to remove barriers and provide support to those who wish to study the arts and humanities through mentor schemes and financial assistance, helping those who are struggling emotionally, financially and practically. Of course not having an arts degree does not necessarily mean that you cannot follow the arts career of your choice, but it does mean that the potential barriers to success are that much more real. A large percentage of leisure pursuits such as film, music and fashion are possible because of the arts in some way and to lose the skills and talent in those areas would be a tragic loss for us all. “We both got so much out of studying a BA (we both did English) - not only in a career sense of having critical and communication skills, but from how an arts degree enriches your entire life. A lot of the research we’ve looked at as well as testimony from current students and graduates of our age suggests many people from under-represented groups will opt for more vocational study. We want to tell those people that an arts degree is not a luxury and that if you have a talent you owe it to yourself to fulfil it!” It's important for people to pursue what they love and enjoy - that's the true road to success! Arts and Humanities in Higher Education are undervalued, the old jokes about BA grads flipping burgers and the ever growing financial concerns students have to shoulder mean that it really is hard, especially for the less well off and first generation students, to study something like English or History of Art as the career path is less obvious than say Law or Business studies.
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