Students from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds see the arts subjects as lacking in diversity

November 28, 2016

This is one of the findings from a new research report launched by AccessHE called “The more colours you add, the nicer the picture”: unlocking artistic potential in London. The report, which examines the challenges of widening access to creative arts and design higher education courses in London, also found that London learners from BAME backgrounds are significantly underrepresented in arts subjects in HE. In 2015, for example, only 100 Asian men from high participation neighbourhoods in London were studying an arts subject in HE as opposed to over 1,000 white women from the same background.

This research was undertaken over the course of the past few months as part of the AccessHE Creative project, a two year long HEFCE NNCO funded initiative looking at widening participation in the arts at HE level.

Further findings from the report highlight that the lack of diversity is not just confined to students from BAME backgrounds. Those with physical impairments are also under-represented, with young people with a physical impairment 2.5 times less likely to do a creative arts and design course than other HE courses.

Commenting on the report, Head of AccessHE Dr Graeme Atherton said:

“Our report shows that there are significant barriers to accessing creative higher education for young people from certain backgrounds. It is not just that they are under-represented in numbers, but that there appears to be a connection between ethnicity, gender and social class and the likelihood of experiencing challenges in accessing creative courses. We feel that this is unfair and that the diversity of London should also be represented in its creative arts higher education courses.

Although there is some great work being done to address this issue across London higher education institutions, the report gives some practical recommendations to progress further, such as a London pledge to target arts and cultural activities at under-represented groups, which can be achieved collaboratively by London HEIs.

At AccessHE, we have taken steps to go further with our work in this area by setting up the AccessHE Creative Network and creating an online information, advice and guidance portal around creative arts higher education and career prospects. We are excited to see how we can further develop this work with our partners.”

In line with one of the recommendations of the report, AccessHE is launching the AccessHE Creative Network. The Creative Network brings together stakeholders from across the education, widening participation, arts and creative sectors to work collaboratively to widen access to HE in the creative arts. It is free for all to join and interested parties can sign up here:

AccessHE will be launching the report and the Network simultaneously at an event in London on 30 November.



  1. The research report can be found here.
  2. The online AccessHE Creative information, advice and guidance portal is available here:
  3. HEFCE is an acronym for the Higher Education Funding Council of England
  4. NNCO is short for National Networks for Collaborative Outreach, a HEFCE funded initiative aimed at encouraging more young people into higher education. More information is here:
  5. For more information on the work of AccessHE, please contact Dr Graeme Atherton at or on 07824 412 702.