‘Act of vandalism’: outrage as English government cuts to arts and music education approved

21 July 2021, 12:46 | Updated: 21 July 2021, 17:31

University music students perform in a concert
University music students perform in a concert. Picture: Alamy

By Kyle Macdonald

Proposals to cut funding for arts and creative subjects in higher education have been confirmed by the universities regulator, in a move described as “catastrophic” for the nation’s creative sector.

Funding for music and the arts in higher education in England is to be halved, following approval of controversial government cuts by the universities regulator for England, the Office for Students (OfS).

The reforms impact funding streams for high-cost subjects in higher education. This will result in greater investment in the ‘Stem’ subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as medicine and healthcare.

Read more: Andrew Lloyd Webber forced to cancel Cinderella show due to ‘impossible’ Covid rules.

Music is one of the subjects not considered a “strategic priority” for the government.

The cuts will halve the per-student funding subsidy for creative and arts subjects from this autumn. This will mean the budget allocated to dance, drama and performing arts, art and design, and media studies, in higher education establishments like universities and colleges, will be slashed from £36m to £19m.

In an article in May, the education secretary Gavin Williamson said students were “starting to pivot away from dead-end courses that leave young people with nothing but debt”.

The OfS also confirmed that London universities would have their London weighting cut under the reforms.

Nicola Benedetti on music education

Jo Grady, the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), described the cuts as an “act of vandalism”.

She said: “This drastic cut to creative arts funding is one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment in English universities in living memory.”

The Musicians’ Union expressed “outrage” as the cuts to music and performing arts were confirmed. They claimed the government was “undermining our phenomenally successful creative economy”.

The Union had previously said the cuts would be “catastrophic” for their members’ work, and the financial viability of music courses.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson outside 10 Downing Street, London
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson outside 10 Downing Street, London. Picture: Getty

Education secretary, Gavin Williamson, defended the move. “These changes will help ensure that increased grant funding is directed towards high-cost provision that supports key industries and the delivery of vital public services, reflecting priorities that have emerged in the light of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

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.”