Written by Courtney Phillips
Illustrated by Audrey Byrne
Those in higher education vocations and final year university students in the creative field face an industry of darkness and an ongoing battle to be seen. Not just on stage or in art galleries, but by the very people who should be guiding us and retraining our teachers, helping and shaping our education as we move into yet another online teaching lockdown. Instead, it appears a blind eye has been turned once more.
I’m a final year university student and like many others across the globe, fighting for the career of our dreams is continuing to be more of a challenge. Training or working within the creative field is tough enough with the normal timetable, high expectations and long contact hours. Now, our courses barely have any clarity and our passions are being ripped away from us with every sudden change and no explanation, answers or guidance on how best to adapt to this new learning environment.
We are now vastly losing hope and love for the things we used to enjoy more than anything as we cram in modules from lost time. We are forced to be soaked into the motion of getting things done just so we can continue to rigorously move forward with our now overflowing timetables. Is mental health even a question within these times?
I’m so tired and deflated, as though my career is coming to an end before it’s even begun. No matter how hard we work to try and maintain positivity and high quality work, while our lecturers work tirelessly in the new studio box of Zoom to make our physical learning adequate, how are we supposed to have hope for our futures when we’re mysteriously wearing a cloak of invisibility to the very people who are supposed to be supporting and making vital decisions for us. How do you justify that?
All we long for is to delve into our studies, to enjoy the thing that once used to fill us with such joy and happiness whilst exploring ourselves as aspiring artists. Instead, it has now become a passionate fight for freedom from the chains of unrealistic demand.
Amongst other higher education students who haven’t gotten a mention within any newscast, despite the resistance from the creative community, I strongly believe and feel almost threatened by the people in power that our career choices and the industry itself is looked down upon and deemed unimportant. During the pandemic we’ve already been told as a creative collective by Chancellor Rishi Sunak via ITV’s large news platform to retrain! As though students could afford to retrain – I doubt there would be any support financially.
Nevermind this being a complete insult not only to creatives in training, but to a whole nation who love any kind of entertainment: from performances on the West End to day time telly, talk shows, music and artwork that spices up our homes. The arts are exactly what we need to keep soldiering on in this time and we creatives have been forced to know exactly what it is to keep soldiering on. Through a timetable that’s trying to make up for lost time, for specific modules to be completed to the same high standard in a shorter time, the confined spaces of our homes and extremely limited resources.
To add to this, according to student finance, our mainly practical course is still being taught at the same high quality standard as it would normally – despite the lack of contact time and missed opportunities to work and network with industry professionals. Meaning we were not entitled to any refunds or financial help during this difficult time where we were not just losing our education, but our houses, our jobs and our positive mindset. Not to mention the lack of support for additional needs students who simply cannot work within this new online platform. Resources to help students with disabilities such as dyslexia or dyspraxia within physical higher educational courses have been completely looked past.
Learning online with these problems not only creates a stressful and beyond challenging environment, but also a battle of insecurity within your own home. As someone who struggles with extreme anxiety, learning through a screen which can only capture as much as its 2D space allows, piles on immense pressure to be perfect, to not hold people back in the class and to not look vulnerable in front of 30 squares. It can feel like a never-ending class of suffocation. I can only imagine the strain this must put on students with dyslexia or dyspraxia, and I feel utterly devastated that they’re not getting the support or an alternative to learning that would aid them within the continuation of learning with confidence.
It’s truly heartbreaking that although we as a community stand proudly together, we remain to be unseen by the people who can put change into action. How can we feel there’s any hope for our futures when we keep hearing how important education is, however, only up to the point of GCSE’s and A-Levels. Many others are trying to achieve our dreams but the nightmare still continues in our minds, our education and our homes as a result of being ignored, not just for us students, but for our highly qualified teachers. Can someone hear us? Will anybody listen?
Courtney Phillips is a 20-year-old aspiring artist with a keen interest in how the arts can help shape the youth and futures of tomorrow.
Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous