Backlash against proposed 50% funding cut for UK art degrees

An insight into the reaction towards a proposed funding cut on the arts

Harry Jones
15th May 2021
Flickr

The proposed cut is resulting in a battle between the paragons of the monumental UK art industry and the Department of Education

This proposal put forward by Gavin Williamson earlier this year, would affect degrees ranging from Art and Design to Archaeology. It would cut art funding from the Office for Students (OFS)– the independent regulator of Higher Education- in order to “prioritise funding” towards “high-value subjects that support the NHS”, as stated by Gavin Williamson in his statutory “guidance” letter towards the OFS.

For many, this was a threat to the cultural leadership of the United Kingdom. This lead to an open letter opposing the cuts from across the art sector organised by the Contemporary Visual Art Networks and signed by over 300 art world figures. The letter addresses how this plan "may limit the availability and accessibility of places on arts courses and result in fewer courses being offered."

Former lead singer of Pulp, Jarvis Cocker pointed out "how funding cuts will deter the students that come from lower socio-economic backgrounds". With similar arguments of educational elitism displayed from the University and College Union, when Aston University and London South Bank university proposed to cut their History courses this year.

 Under this proposed legislation, a full time-student would see their £243 (2020/21) of funding reduced to £121.50, as well as a total funding reduction from £40m to £20m, whilst STEM would see a rise from £651m to £736m in funding.

In reaction to claims of the harm of this proposed change, a Department for Education spokesperson said, "that the proposed reforms would only affect a small proportion of the income of higher education institutions, with the consultation including input from teachers and other voices from the sector."

The Department for Education said most university funding comes from tuition fees and other source. Arguing that the changes to the "additional money" would "only affect a small proportion of the income of higher education providers".

However, with the cultural sector contributing £34.6bn to the overall UK economy in 2019, many see this as a misstep by the Educational Minister.

With an 35% decline in national arts funding over the last decade, this remains an issue encroaching on the Art Industry.

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