skip to main content

MU Outrage as Planned Cuts to Government Funding for Higher Education Arts and Music Confirmed

The MU is devastated that the Office for Students has recommended implementing Government funding cuts to Higher Education arts and music subjects.

Published: 20 July 2021 | 5:13 PM Updated: 01 August 2023 | 12:52 PM
Photograph of an empty recital hall, there are two double basses lying on their sides and a lot of empty chairs and music stands.
Musicians generate billions for the UK economy, and contribute in infinite ways to our cultural life, health and wellbeing. Photo credit: Stocksy

The Office for Students (OfS) has confirmed that the catastrophic funding cut will go ahead despite the many MU members and other creatives, industry organisations, higher education institutions and trade unions who have raised serious and legitimate concerns.

Undermining our phenomenally successful creative economy

MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl says:

“This news is frankly the last straw for our members, many of whom have survived without any Government support and barely any work for the past 18 months.

“Since we heard about these proposed cuts, there has been an enormous outpouring of fury and disappointment from our members and the wider music community.

“Musicians are highly skilled, resilient, creative and community minded. Their work generates billions for the UK economy, and they contribute in infinite ways to our cultural life, health and wellbeing.

“We must ensure that the talent pipeline doesn’t dry up. Closing opportunities to learn music is short-sighted, and at the end of the day we’ll all suffer.”

MU National Organiser for Education Chris Walters says:

“We will continue to campaign for fairer funding for arts and music courses at higher education, in particular for less privileged students who will be hit hardest by this.

“Sadly, we believe that the Government’s approach will only undermine our phenomenally successful creative economy and make entry into the music industry more difficult for many.”

Government’s HE funding cut explained

The Government will impose a 50% funding cut to arts subjects at higher education (HE) in England, including music. According to Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson, this is because music and the arts are not among its “strategic priorities”.

Proposed cuts affect the money the Government gives Higher Education institutions to top up course funding that otherwise comes from students’ tuition fees.

These cuts will cause chaos for students starting courses this autumn, and put the UK’s world leading reputation for music and the arts at risk.

Putting our £5.8bn music industry at risk

It may be a relatively small amount of money in the Government’s mind, but a 50% funding cut to residual funding will have a catastrophic impact on music and arts subjects at the Higher Education level in England.

It risks the financial viability of essential training that will produce the next generation of musicians and arts professionals.

It will affect all students, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds by creating an additional barrier to students who already face multiple barriers to studying music at university.

And it pulls the rug out from under our creative industries and music, which are worth £112bn and £5.8bn respectively.

This is the Government levelling down, not up

Levelling up can’t be achieved through the redistribution of existing funds, because those funds are already not enough.

Arts education needs more funding, not a fight over the little that currently exists.

Get MU membership today

From gig players to part-time teachers and professional instrumentalists, MU members can access specialist insurance for musicians. This includes accident cover, health schemes, travel insurance and car insurance add-ons through the Musicians’ Union.

Explore our member services

  • Get public liability insurance for musicians
  • Access expert legal support
  • Be represented in your profession
  • Access expert career advice, resources, and training events
  • Connect, network, and get to know the community of musicians

Learn about all membership benefits

Get MU membership today

Continue reading

Small blue toy car over a map of Europe.

Take Part in the MU’s New Survey on Touring in the EU Post Brexit

Your answers are key to helping us assess the impact leaving the EU has had on touring musicians, and if our specialist information and guidance has been useful or needs improving. Your feedback is also vital in shaping our work when liaising with government.

Published: 03 April 2024

Read more about Take Part in the MU’s New Survey on Touring in the EU Post Brexit