University union slams ‘one of biggest attacks on arts in living memory’ after watchdog cuts subsidy

‘It will be hugely damaging for access,’ Jo Grady from the University and College Union says

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 21 July 2021 00:14
<p>Music courses at universities are set to be affected by the cuts</p>

Music courses at universities are set to be affected by the cuts

A university union has condemned what it called the “biggest attack on arts in living memory” after a watchdog confirmed it would be reducing funding given to some subjects.

The Office for Students (OfS) said on Tuesday a subsidy for high-cost courses in the fields of music, performing arts and media would be reduced.

Other subjects, such as medicine, archaeology and nursing, will not be affected by the change.

The watchdog says its funding supplements tuition fees, which pay for the bulk of higher education course costs.

But the move has faced backlash from the University and College Union (UCU), who said it “undermines the huge contribution” of the creative arts sector to society and the economy.

“This drastic cut to creative arts funding is one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment in English universities in living memory,” Jo Grady, the general secretary, said.

“It will be hugely damaging for access, creating geographical cold spots as many courses become unviable - including at institutions in the capital where London weighting funding is being removed.”

She added: “The universities most vulnerable are those with a higher number of less well-off students and it is unconscionable to deny them the chance to study subjects like art, drama and music.”

High-cost subject funding is money provided directly to universities by the watchdog to help them deliver subjects that are expensive to teach.

Reforms announced on Tuesday mean this subsidy will be halved for subjects in music, dance, performing arts, art and design and media studies.

The change will see the funding fall from £243 per student per year to £121.50.

The OfS says the subsidy reduction works out at around one per cent of the combined course fee and their own funding.

Courses that receive high-cost funding related to medicine, healthcare, STEM or “those supporting specific labour market needs” will not be affected by the subsidy reduction, the watchdog said.

Archaeology - initially suggested to be one of the courses to face a subsidy cut in a consultation- will now be included in the exempt courses.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We need to ensure that Government support is best aligned with the needs and priorities of the nation. These are focusing on building back better from the pandemic and supporting economic recovery and growth.

“Funding from the Strategic Priorities Grant is a small percentage of the total income of Higher Education providers. The reprioritisation is designed to target taxpayers’ money towards subjects that support the NHS; science, technology and engineering; and the specific needs of the labour market.

“High-quality provision in a range of subjects, including the arts, is also critical for our workforce, economy and our society which is why we have asked the Office for Students to allocate an additional £10m to our world-leading specialist providers, including several top arts institutions.”

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