"Catastrophic" 50% cut to the arts proposed by Gavin Williamson

Jess Bradbury reports on the latest blow to the arts and how these cuts will impact students

Jess Bradbury
17th May 2021
A 50% cut to arts subjects at UK universities has been announced, prompting an outcry from artists and musicians nationwide. The government has been accused of neglecting the “cultural national health” of the country, with the “catastrophic” cut possibly coming into effect as soon as this autumn.

Students of art and design, music, dance, drama and performing arts, media studies and archaeology will see their subject funding cut by half after Gavin Williamson made a proposal to the Office for Students (OfS) earlier this year. Williamson cited these “high cost” higher education courses as not fulfilling strategic priorities. At the moment, each full-time student undertaking an arts course is currently awarded £243 in funding, however, under the revised plan, just £121.50 will be awarded. Under these plans, spending for non-prioritised subjects will be cut from £36 million to £19 million and the savings will be redirected into other areas such as computing and engineering.

Under these plans, spending for non-prioritised subjects will be cut from £36 million to £19 million

Williamson says the cut would save around £20 million, adding that potential further reductions could be taken in future years. An OfS spokesperson said: “the proposed changes relate to a small fraction of how these courses are funded” and “we plan to maintain funds to support disadvantaged students, and to boost funding for specialist institutions by £10m”.

Former frontman of Pulp, Jarvis Cocker, has called the plans “astounding” and said the plans would put students from lower socio-economic backgrounds off from taking arts subjects. He stated: “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”, emphasising that the arts would become dominated by wealthy domestic and foreign students.

“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”

Jarvis Cocker

Russell Group universities have also protested against the government's proposed cuts. In a submission to the OfS, they argue that art courses will be running at a deficit of about £27,000 per student, which includes the income they receive from tuition fees. The submission also claimed that their ability to attract disadvantaged students or those from under-represented backgrounds will also be majorly hindered. London universities are set to be particularly affected, such as UCL which stands to lose £5.8 million. 

The Public Campaign for the Arts has created a petition to stop the planned cuts, calling the proposals “an attack on the future of UK arts, the creative potential of the next generation”. They have currently received over 150,00 signatures.

An open letter organised by the Contemporary Visual Arts Network has been sent to the government, with signatures from 300 art world figures. They emphasise that the cut would be a “strategic misstep” and that it may “limit the availability and accessibility of places on arts courses and result in fewer courses being offered”. The letter further reads: “this will have a detrimental impact on our ability to retain our world-leading position, attract inward investment through our cultural capital and our share of the global art market”.

Featured Image: Newcastle University

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AUTHOR: Jess Bradbury
English literature student with a passion for arts and culture. Professional waffler. Twitter/IG @jessbradburyx

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