by Maria Rossini, Education Partnerships Manager

Maria Rossini has been longlisted for The IdeasTap Columnist competition and has kindly given us permission to publish her entry.


I’ll be straight up with you here and admit that I’m not an arts graduate.

Things started out well. If anything the early signs were that I’d flourish in the creative industries. My teacher threatened to break both my arms and legs if I didn’t take art at GCSE, I won a national storywriting competition aged 14 and my best grades at GCSE were in drama and English Literature.

However, being an ‘all-rounder,’ and spurred on by a lofty urge to ‘help people’ and ‘change the world,’ I went down the ‘sciences’ route and duly emerged from Uni’ with a degree in medical microbiology (albeit mixing it up with a side order of A’ level Spanish).

Key to my decision making was a sense that whilst I could pursue almost all my favorite arts as hobbies, if I closed the ‘science’ academic doors, I’d be shutting myself off from engaging with that world entirely. Science is, after all, left to the ‘professionals’ right?

Our education system, and society at large, seems, too often, to have this polarizing effect. We frequently pitch ‘Arts’ and ‘Sciences’ up against each other as though they are mutually exclusive, opposite ends of an unbending yard stick. Repeatedly, we force young people into a dichotomy of decision making that is both unfair and unrealistic, whilst also being inherently damaging to both the arts and science economies.

Throughout my ‘sciences’ journey (as I’d imagined) I found creative outlets. I wrote and sang in my spare time, and even wove the arts into my professional career: Performing science shows dressed as a ‘water wizard’, entering ‘science writing’ competitions and eventually embracing the world of ‘science communication’ where I now happily live in an all-rounder paradise of writing, education project management and (very) occasional radio work.

My real world has very few subject boundaries and I suspect that is the case for most of us. Increasingly science and the arts collaborate, collide and may indeed be one in the same thing. Digital making and visual FX being prime examples of where the borders not only blur but have been completely dismantled. They are also the areas with some of the biggest skills gaps in the UK.

If the worlds of science and arts want to have the best equipped, most creative workforce possible, it would be to everyone’s benefit to change the careers messaging we send out to young people.

But, there’s another way to tackle the gap. I think we also need to open the doors to career and skills shifts later in life and widen the opportunities to re-engage with the ‘other side’ throughout our careers.

Did I make the right decision choosing the narrow path of science? Part of me feels I probably did although you may disagree entirely, and perhaps made completely the opposite choice. I’ve been able to travel back into the ‘arts’ with relative ease throughout my career. How easy would it have been to travel in the other direction?