Government’s ‘philistine’ 50% cut for arts teaching

Education secretary Gavin Williamson is proposing a 50% higher education cut in arts, humanities and media subjects, to support subjects with better earning potential, described as “horrific” , “catastrophic” and "philistine" by cultural leaders.

The cuts for the 2021/22 year affect such higher education subjects as the performing and creative arts, media studies and archaeology.

Williamson has written to the Office for Students, the independent regulator for higher education in England which is conducting the consultation, saying the OFS should "reprioritise funding towards the provision of high-cost, high-value subjects that support the NHS and wider healthcare policy, high-cost STEM subjects and/or specific labour market needs".

The deadline is tomorrow, May 6, for responses. Go to paragraph 21 at https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/consultation-on-recurrent-funding-for-2021-22/

"Art is not a hobby and talent can come from anywhere" the actor and director Samuel West (pictured), who is also chair of the National Campaign for the Arts, told The Stage. "Affordable music, drama and design courses fund a profitable world-class industry that keeps us sane and civilised. Even among the government’s recent proposals, this one is particularly ill-thought-out and must be opposed."

Graeme Du Fresne, head of music at the Italia Conti School, said: "There’s a strong whiff of the government knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing in their thinking, which appears to be driven by the notion that graduate career income in performing arts subjects fares poorly with some other professions.

"This analysis fails to consider a number of benefits arts performance delivers to communities and the country as a whole. For example, during the pandemic we have witnessed the arts’ ability to foster well- being, helping to heal and nourish the nation in lockdown."

West added that the cuts would "narrow and eventually choke" the talent pipeline in the industry. "How can you think that [our] industry is not ‘a priority’, unless through some twisted worldview that believes turning out empathetic people who work collectively and are skilled in critical thinking is inimical to your vision? That punitive, philistine agenda is now the only explanation I can think of" he said.

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