There is broad consensus about the arts in education at the primary and secondary level: not even STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) hardliners would contest the value of a healthy dose — just a little — when it comes to visual art, theatre, music or other creative forms in the school curriculum. It’s at the tertiary level, where (for better or worse) areas of study become more specialised, that people start to get twitchy. “The arts in education” is all very well, but “an education in art”? That’s a waste of state resources, goes the complaint, and it does a disservice to the student who graduates without any marketable skills or knowledge. Even Barack Obama, in what now seems like those halcyon pre-Trump years, questioned the utility of an art history degree compared with a qualification that could lead to a job in “skilled manufacturing” or a trade such as being a plumber or an electrician. Obama subsequently apologised for his glib off-the-cuff remark, but ...

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