Professors criticize axing of History of Art A-level

National News News

Over 200 academics and art professionals have penned a letter to AQA strongly criticising their decision to axe their history of art A-level from 2018. It was the last examination board to offer the subject at A-level.

Chief executive of AQA, Kevin Phillips, said in a statement: “the existing specification is challenging to mark and award because of the specialist nature of the topics, the range of options, difficulties in recruiting sufficient experienced examiners, and limited entries.”

An AQA spokeswoman said that, “our decision has nothing to do with the importance of the history of art.”

Students currently enrolled on the course will not be affected, and will take the final exams in 2018. Just over 800 students took the A-Level in the last exam season.

The decision taken by AQA comes in response to government changes to A-levels that require exam boards to produce new syllabuses. The exam board had drafted a new history of art syllabus earlier this year but it will now not be prepared for classrooms.

Oxford University has a yearly intake of around 15 history of art students, but applicants are not required to have taken the subject at A-level for admission.

Despite this, the head of the history of art department at Warwick University, Louis Bourdua, condemned the decision, saying: “what kind of signal does the axing of a historical discipline send out there to our young people.”

Ruskin School of Art student, Rhian Harris-Mussi, said: “History of Art is as valid as any other subject, for without it we would have little to no knowledge of ancient cultures, most of which has been learnt through the study of image, cave paintings, artefacts, sculptures, illustrations, landscapes and portraits. The wealth of visual information that is available about humanity before our time is overwhelming.”

Rosie Coleman Collier, a second-year English Literature at St Anne’s, said: “during my own school career I dealt with persistence towards art as an academic subject. Years later, and this prejudice has been confirmed by a leading exam board. Though AQA claims that the decision to axe history of art from their curriculum has “nothing to do with the importance of the history of art”, this statement seems somewhat dubious given the negative rhetoric that surrounds creative subjects in education, and government transformations that place a strain on the expressive arts.

“An education in history of art offers a rich understanding of our own cultural and social landscape, and its axing from the A-level syllabus is only an indication that darker things are to come.”


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