Government Planning 50% Funding Cut To University Arts Subjects | TOTUM
Ben HaywardMay 5th
2021

The art community has reacted angrily to government proposals to cut funding to arts subjects at university by 50%, which could come in to effect from this autumn. 

Artists and musicians have accused the government of neglecting the UK’s ‘cultural national health’ labelling the proposals as ‘catastrophic’ after a report said the arts did not represent ‘strategic priorities’ reports the Guardian. 

A consultation by the Office for Students (OfS) and education secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested halving the amount of funding awarded to so-called ‘high cost’ higher education arts subjects including music, dance, drama, performing arts and archaeology. 

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Reacting to the news, Jarvis Cocker, singer and former Pulp frontman, said the plans would put off those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, leaving arts subjects open purely to the wealthy.

Cocker said: “I think it will really just put off people from a certain background and that’s a pity because it’s about mixing with people with different ideas, and then you get this cross pollination of stuff that makes things happen.

“It always seems to be that it’s art education that seems to be this expendable thing, as if it’s not important, and it is."

The proposal puts forward a spending cut for non-prioritised subjects from £36m to £19m, with the savings being re-allocated to other areas such as nursing and computing.

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Institutions that will see their funding slashed include the University of the Arts London (UAL), which will see a shortfall of around £4m under the new proposals. 

Set designer Es Devlin, who has worked with Kanye West and Sam Mendes, and who also studied at UAL, said: “We know we need to train doctors and nurses in order to maintain our physical national health. Equally, we need to train artists, musicians, designers in order to maintain our cultural national health.”

The Musicians’ Union (MU) said that students, employers and lecturers had all been kept out of the conversation and that with a public consultation closing today (May 6th), the sector had been given little time to ‘justify its existence’.

Speaking to the Guardian, Chris Walters, the MU’s national organiser for education, said: “The cuts will be catastrophic for most music provision at university level, affecting the financial viability of music courses and training for the next generation of musicians.

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“Music was worth £5.8bn to the UK economy in 2019, which depends on properly funded university provision. The UK’s world-leading status in music and the arts could be in serious jeopardy from these cuts.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said the reforms would only affect a small proportion of the income of higher education institutions.

“Our proposed reforms only affect the additional funding allocated towards some creative subjects, and are designed to target taxpayers’ money towards the subjects which support the skills this country needs to build back better,” they said. 

The MU also said that although the consultation recommends making a small number of courses exempt from the cuts - such as orchestral string players - it seemed very strange to overlook the contribution other music makes to the UK economy.

The Public Campaign for the Arts, which has labelled the proposals as 'an attack on the future of UK arts, the creative potential of the next generation’ has launched a petition to stop the cuts.

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