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Devastating For Arts and Humanities: The MU Responds to 50% Higher Education Funding Cut Consultation

The MU strongly opposes Government plans to impose a catastrophic 50% funding cut to arts subjects including music at Higher Education (HE) level in England.

Published: 06 May 2021 | 1:56 PM Updated: 07 May 2021 | 11:06 AM
Photograph of a young woman walking past what might be a music college, with a violin case strapped to her back.
“We believe this policy will ultimately lead to the reduction and possible closure of numerous Higher Education music departments” Photo credit: Stocksy

The MU submitted to the Office for Students’ (OfS) consultation on behalf of 30,000 musicians. Here are some of our main thoughts.

We disagree with the change in funding method

We strongly disagree with the proposal to “distribute a greater proportion of OfS recurrent grant through the main high-cost subject funding method,” outlined in question one of the consultation.

The recurrent grant, sometimes known as residual funding, is the money the Government gives higher education institutions to top up student fees and cover the costs of courses.

We believe this policy will ultimately lead to the reduction and possible closure of numerous Higher Education music departments – many of whom have established an international standing for excellence in research, performance, teaching and learning.

Investing in arts subjects including music

Rather than cut the budget for the performing and creative arts, raised in question two, the Government should take note of how successful this sector is and invest more.

Music alone contributed £5.8bn to the economy in 2019 – up by 11% on the previous year. It is one of the UK’s top performing exports with an average growth rate of 12% per annum. It is part of our £112bn creative industries.

The music industry employs close to 200,000 people, many of whom work on a freelance basis, balancing performing, teaching, producing, composing, researching and other activities.

Despite this incredible success, “musicians” (including arts officers, producers, and directors) appear on the Government’s own 2021 “shortage occupations” list.

Pitting subjects and people against each other

Many of the questions in the consultation seem to pit people against each other. For example, maintaining funding for nursing and midwifery is crucial (question ten).

Similarly, we agree with increasing the fund to support student transition and mental health and would argue that the proposed £15m is not enough (question nine).

But this funding should not come at the expense of music and arts subjects.

Making higher education more accessible, not less

We believe the proposed funding cuts are discriminatory. The consultation asks about taking away the London weighting from the student premium allocations (questions seven and eight), which would disproportionately affect students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The consultation document also says that “students studying design and the creative arts have the highest proportion of any broad subject group to have a reported disability.” It makes no sense to restrict access to these courses – read Drake Music’s consultation response for more on why.

We are also concerned that demoting arts subjects including music may also have a detrimental impact on the amount of money students can borrow, disproportionately affecting students from low income households.

Stop the proposed 50% funding cut, see our three quick and simple ways to take action now.

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