Paid opportunities for students with Art Fund

Since 2017 Art Fund has been providing its Student Art Pass members with paid opportunities in the cultural sector. Sarah Kaye, Senior Marketing Manager, Students and Robert Dingle, Programme Partnerships Manager outline their approach to connecting young people with museums, and the real benefits for both.

In times of financial and staff constraints, museums are being asked to do more and to secure their future by creating relevance for everyone within the communities they serve. Management teams across the UK are asking themselves: ‘How can we engage more young people, and what will happen if young people don’t come?’

These have never been easy questions to answer. The drive for relevance becomes more acute with every funding round and with every grant application. Organisations under pressure can struggle to answer the fundamental question of why should young people engage?

At Art Fund we believe we can start by encouraging more voices to take part, and that solutions come from the source.

Supporting organisations to offer placements
We listened and we learned that two thirds of students want to engage more with cultural organisations as fantastic resources to support their studies, personal wellbeing, and leisure time, but that the cost of visiting is a significant barrier. Furthermore, they want to be involved – going beyond visiting to become active collaborators and participants in the world of art and culture, now and in their future careers.

In response, to harness this passion and to match the needs of the sector, we created our Student Opportunities grants, born from Art Fund’s popular Student Art Pass programme. Since 2017 the Student Art Pass has been available to all full-time UK students in higher education, offering students admission benefits to museums, galleries, and historic houses in Art Fund’s network, alongside regular paid opportunities funded by Student Opportunities grants. Art Fund’s student membership has grown to over 25,000 members in just four years.

These paid opportunities with cultural organisations have fast become the most popular part of the Student Art Pass programme – with over 20,000 students clicking on an email featuring an opportunity.

The grants are not shorthand for a free internship. Rather, Art Fund will fund organisations up to £10,000 to be able to offer students paid opportunities, so that they can get real benefit from the energetic and skilled resource that students bring. The Student Opportunities grant programme allows for a transformative relationship for both parties and the funding ensures that all responsibilities are taken seriously and that there is accountability.

As Sophie Habour from Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) says: ‘’Working with this group of young people has benefited the museum enormously. Having a range of fresh perspectives and new ideas has enriched both the team and museum output.’’

Not only did RAMM benefit from the students’ energy and connections, but the opportunity opened pathways for the students to find more paid work in the arts as well as build their own peer network as student panel member Laura Fagan commented:

“My initial motivation for applying was to gain some practical marketing experience alongside my academic study within the non-profit sector. However, I didn’t expect that I would value the experience more because of the genuine friendships, enjoyment and connection to the city that I found throughout the year.”

Art Fund has helped to place over 230 students into 14 cultural organisations since 2019, and we want more organisations to take this chance to open their doors, invite different voices into their organisations and seek solutions from the source, so that young people ask themselves what they have been missing out on.

New applications welcomed
Art Fund is now accepting applications for Student Opportunities grants for 2022. Find out more ( and see how your organisation can harness the power of young people.


Art Fund’s Student Art Pass programme has been made possible by private funders including the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust and the 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust.