A consultation by the Office for Students (OfS) and the UK’s education secretary Gavin Williamson has said that arts subjects were not ‘strategic priorities’
Artists and musicians are speaking out against a proposal by the education secretary and the Office for Students.
Artists and musicians within the UK have accused the government of neglecting the country’s “cultural, national health” by pursuing a “catastrophic” 50% cut to arts subject funding at universities, which could come potentially into effect from this autumn.
A consultation by the Office for Students, as well as Gavin Williamson, suggested that halving the amount of money spent on “high cost” higher education arts subjects, which includes music, dance, drama, performing arts and archaeology, that it said were not “strategic priorities”.
This comes after Labour has accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of lying over who paid for the renovation costs to his Downing Street flat. Pressure is growing on the Prime Minister to reveal details after his ex-adviser, Dominic Cummings, claimed he planned for donors to “secretly pay” for the renovation work.
Jarvis Cocker, the singer and former frontman of Pulp, said that these new plans were “astounding” and would put off those who are from lower socio-economic backgrounds and leave arts subjects to those of wealthy domestic backgrounds and foreign students.
He 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.”
Under the new plan, spending for those non-prioritised subjects will be cut from the current figure of £36m to £19m, with the savings being redirected into other areas such as nursing and computer science.
Institutions that will miss out will include the University of the Arts London, which includes Central Saint Martins, where Cocker had attended in the late 80s, and will lose almost £4m under these new plans. “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,” added Cocker.
Es Devlin, who is a set designer that has worked with the likes of Kanye West and Sam Mendes, and also studied at UAL, has 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 has said that students, employers and lecturers are been kept out of the conversation for the new proposals, and with a public consultation closing on the 6th of May after starting in late March the sector has only just a few days to “justify its existence”.
This comes after Britons’ prospects of booking a holiday abroad this summer have been given a boost, with the UK government saying that COVID passports will become available “as soon as possible”.
The MU’s national organiser for education, Chris Walters, told the Guardian that the proposed funding cuts would completely transform arts and music education within UK higher education.
“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,” he said.
“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.”