As strange as it seems, a university degree in the arts is one of the few degrees that are still worth pursuing, given a few conditions. A university arts education is one of the few degrees that give you not only a degree and some sort of status, but also a portfolio of works, and given that it is not too embarrassing it may well be actually used in real-life to get real, paid work. Compare this to an enormous amount of degrees in social sciences, management, marketing, PR, etc., and you will see that it may actually be quite a practical decision to go into arts school. Obviously one will have to realistically consider how good and original their work is, but once they are past that, it is a pretty safe bet that they will have a career in the arts that might actually pay off that student debt.
The other content of university arts degrees is an entirely different question and it would only benefit artists if these degrees would at least acquaint them with issues that people working in the sector face on a daily basis. Artists should at the very least be made aware of things like fundraising, marketing, public benefit, and competition that they will face immediately on graduation.
The only degree like this in the UK I have has been Lancaster University’s ‘MA in Contemporary Arts Practice’ which is now defunct, apparently because there was not enough demand. I am sure hundreds of purely artistic courses out there benefit artists, but I am afraid today’s art world is an entirely different animal than it was 20 or even 10 years ago.
There are artists who ‘get it’ even without such courses, so perhaps we don’t need more competition and should just leave things as they are and let the best make their way, right? You tell me.