Funding cuts to move forward for university art courses in England despite opposition | University funding

Ministers have been accused of “one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment at English universities in living memory” after proposals to cut funding for arts and creative subjects in higher education were confirmed by the university regulator.

When the planned cuts emerged earlier this year, artists and musicians launched a campaign to fight the proposals, accusing the government of neglecting the country’s “cultural national health” by pursuing what they called “budget cuts”. catastrophic ”for artistic subjects in universities.

The controversial reforms affect a specific funding stream that is directed to expensive subjects in higher education and will result in the withdrawal of money from creative arts subjects, while more is invested in other expensive subjects including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), medicine and health, in accordance with government priorities.

The Public Campaign for the Arts warned that the cuts would threaten the viability of art classes at universities, leading to possible closures, which in turn would damage the talent pool leading from higher education to the creative industries, which represent £ 111 billion a year for the UK economy. Relevant courses include music, dance, performing arts, art and design, and media studies.

The cuts will cut the high-cost funding grant for creative and artistic subjects in half from the start of the next academic year. The universities regulator for England, the Office for Students (OfS), insisted that the reduction was only equivalent to around 1% of the combined course fees and OfS funding, but activists said that with further cuts the impact would be devastating.

The OfS has also confirmed that London universities will see their London weightings reduced as part of the reforms. Professor Frances Corner, director of Goldsmiths, University of London, said the changes would result in losses of £ 2million for her university each year.

“This announcement puts the brakes on the teaching of the creative arts and threatens to have a devastating impact on London universities and their surrounding communities. As our hometown of Lewisham is one of the poorest areas in England, withdrawing this funding looks more like a ‘punch’ than a ‘race to the top’. These London weight reductions are a big blow to our local community as they try to recover from Covid-19. “

Jo Grady, general secretary of the Union of Universities and Colleges (UCU), called the cuts “an act of vandalism”. “This drastic cut in funding for the creative arts is one of the biggest attacks on the arts and entertainment at English universities in living memory,” she said.

“This will be extremely damaging to access, creating geographic cold spots as many courses become unsustainable – including at institutions in the capital where funding for the London weighting is cut.

“The most vulnerable universities are those with a larger number of less well-off students and it is unreasonable to deny them the opportunity to study subjects like art, theater and music.

Naomi Pohl, Deputy General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “This news is frankly the last straw for our members, many of whom have survived without any government support and barely without work for the past 18 months. .

“Since we heard about these proposed cuts, there has been a huge wave of fury and disappointment from our members and the music community at large. We must ensure that the talent pool does not dry up. Shutting down opportunities to learn music is short sighted, and at the end of the day we will all suffer.

In a letter to OfS confirming the reforms, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “These changes will help ensure that increased subsidies are directed towards high-cost delivery that supports key industries and the provision of vital public services, reflecting the priorities. that have emerged in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “

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Nancy Owens

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