High profile arts leaders have signed up to the new ‘University Women in the Arts’ scheme, which will offer one-to-one support to women seeking a career in the sector after graduating with an arts degree. 

Photo of Jude Kelly
Jude Kelly (r), one of the mentors on the scheme

Senior arts leaders have lent their support to a new scheme to improve the transition for women from studying the arts at universities to working in the sector.

17 experienced arts professionals, including Elizabeth Freestone, former Artistic Director of Pentabus Theatre; Tanya Seghatchian, former Head of the Film Fund at the UK Film Council; and Charlotte Higgins, Chief Culture Writer at The Guardian, have signed up for the University Women in the Arts (UWiA) mentoring programme.

They will offer advice to a cohort of female foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate students on leadership skills, careers, a work / life balance, finances, and how the arts sector works.

Other high-profile leaders to support the scheme include Jude Kelly, previously Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre; Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre; and Pinky Lilani, founder of the Women of the Future Programmes.


UWiA has also set up what it claims is a “world-first” survey of current and recent female students to track the barriers to progression as they leave university arts degrees and embark upon a career in the sector. 

The organisers point to recent findings from UCAS that over 60% of arts students are female in the UK, rising to over 70% at the UK’s leading arts universities. This contrast with research from the Fawcett Society, which finds only 30% of professional artists, directors and playwrights are female.

Any woman who has studied an arts subject in any form at a higher education institution is invited to respond to the survey, which asks about potential challenges and solutions for the transition period.

The study is run by a partnership involving Sphinx Theatre Company, the Women of the Future Programme and the Art School, which over the last year have been working with researchers at the University of Cambridge to investigate the transition from studying the arts to working in the arts. The survey is the culmination of this research, aiming to investigate the challenges women face and explore how the barriers can be broken down. 

The findings will be presented to Government, universities and the arts industry, with a view to bringing about change.

Jennifer Tuckett, Director of University Women in the Arts commented. “Coming from a single parent family myself, I know the sacrifices many students have to make when university courses are so expensive, which means it is vital we work together to improve the transition from studying the arts to working in the arts.”