Government plans to impose a 50% funding cut to arts subjects at higher education (HE) in England, including visual art

According to the Office for Students, which distributes government funding to universities, the Department for Education has said that arts courses are not among its official ‘strategic priorities’.

“Support for HE arts courses is critical to the survival of the sector”

a-n The Artists Information Company has issued the following response to the Office for Students consultation:

“The current proposal will limit the availability of places on arts courses and result in fewer courses being offered. 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. The UK art market thrives due to a well-developed infrastructure of commercial galleries, public museums and galleries, and most importantly artists, of which the majority of the workforce have studied on arts courses. The proposal will also detract from one of the UK’s fastest-growing economies. The Creative Industries contributed £116bn in GVA in 2019 and supports 1 in every 16 jobs (DCMS 2019). This success has been built upon the UK’s world leading arts education and its entrepreneurial graduates. Arts education is fundamental to the lives of the next generation of artists and designers.

a-n has partnerships with 57 HE institutions, supporting students through to graduation and becoming professional artists and art workers. We have deep knowledge, built up over 40 years, of the pathways and routes into the creative and cultural industries. Our members have studied on arts courses and many now work in HE institutions and by implementing cuts there will be large-scale redundancies in the HE sector that will impact on the livelihoods of artists.

We believe that Higher Education is a fundamental right of all people in this country and as Martina Mullaney, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Bolton has commented “students deserve the full art school experience, as any other sector would provide for their students.”

We have written to the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, asking him to “revoke the policy proposals on the basis of strong evidence on the value of HE arts courses to the growth of the creative industries and in turn the UK economy, and the flawed and inequitable consultation process. If you believe that innovation is a strategic priority, are committed to investing in the future, and want to prevent widespread redundancies, you will not cut HE funding for arts subjects.”

Artists and academics respond

Commenting on the impact the proposed cuts will have, artist and a-n Board member Keith Piper, who is also Associate Professor in Fine Art at Middlesex University, London, said: “The proposals by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to slash higher education funding for the arts, is not just a colossal act of cultural vandalism, but is also based on a dangerous and muddled headed dichotomy between the ‘arts’ and the ‘sciences’ that sees current and future prosperity as being located solely within the application of technology, with human creativity, problem solving and decision making becoming expendable.”

David Kefford, artist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, added: “The proposed cuts to HE arts courses is devastating news as our creative arts students are an integral part of the local community and play a key role in the wider arts ecology. They are the creative entrepreneurs of the future and without HE courses to nurture their talents society would be a poorer place to live. The OfS needs to value the impact arts courses have in transforming young people’s lives!”

Be sure your voice is heard

a-n has signed the Campaign for the Arts petition urging the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to reissue the guidance to the Office for Students. It calls for the Government to drop demands for a 50% cut to high-cost subject funding of arts (‘C1.2’) subjects and recognise the value of arts subjects in education and of the arts in society

The petition also calls for a commitment to sustained funding for HE providers so they can continue to deliver world-leading arts courses.

We urge a-n members to sign and share the petition.

Have your say:

Research how contemporary visual arts institutions and art schools are united against to creative education
• Email your MP
Write to the Department of Education using their contact form
• Make a complaint to the Office for Students about their consultation
Take part in CVAN’s Digital March on Thursday 10 June and let government know that #ArtIsEssential (Watch the event recording)

Remember to spread the word on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The more people who take action, the stronger our collective call will be.

Response from Department of Education

Updated: 1 July 2021

The Ministerial and Public Communications Division has responded to a-n’s letter regarding the reallocation of high-cost subject funding within the Strategic Priorities Grant. Read the full response.

1. Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN)