The challenges to creativity in higher education

The RSA surveyed their fellows in higher education about challenges to creativity within the sector. Though I’d certainly like more information (n=???) the responses they received paint an increasingly familiar picture of how the accelerated academy corrodes the impulse towards creativity of those working within it:


The biggest barriers seemed to be structural, with the majority of the respondents stating that existing structures limited the development of creativity within their institutions. Rigidity in curriculum design was a common complaint, with many feeling that courses had no space for creativity, or that there was an inbuilt ‘knowledge bias’ that kept creative ideas off the table. Others felt that institutional structures were to blame and spoke about a ‘silo’ mentality that drew too strict a divide between subjects traditionally viewed as ‘creative’ and those that aren’t.

Perceived value:

A significant minority of those we surveyed felt that the perception that creativity lacks value is a key barrier to its development. Many respondents felt that there was an increasing drive towards employability as a key performance indicator for universities. There was a concern that pursing creativity over employability might hinder a university’s place in national or international rankings. They also felt that subjects that are seen as traditionally creative suffered because they were unable to bring in funding or secure prestigious grants.

Time, funding and expertise:

A general lack of time, funding and expertise within teaching staff also seems to present a stumbling block to creativity. Several of those surveyed felt that the need for undergraduates to fund their studies through part-time work would undermine attempts at creative curricula, as they would lack the time to fully engage with it. Similarly, while many recognised that there was a lack of creative expertise among university staff, it was also felt that without additional funding or staff time its development would not be a priority.

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