Last month, recruitment for all 138 performing arts courses at the University of Wolverhampton was suspended, with the University of Roehampton entering a consultation on the future of many of its own arts courses just days later.
In response, the Wolverhampton branch of the University and College Union (UCU) raised concerns over the future of performing arts education in the West Midlands, adding that the University of Wolverhampton’s performing arts students “are largely from the West Midlands (65%) and largely first-generation university students (70%).”
This fits with the MU’s observations that students who are most likely affected by HE arts cuts are those from lower socioeconomic and/or minority ethnic backgrounds.
The University of Roehampton plans to cull the number of courses it offers and sack 226 academics, which is half of its academic staff. Its schools of arts will be heavily affected.
The university said that it wants to push students into “graduate-level” jobs and focus more on “skills led” learning with “greater levels of engagement with employers”.
This echoes Government statements that universities should focus on preparing students for the job market and move away from what it describes as “low value” courses, by which it means music and the arts, among others.
Arts subjects paying the price
The MU has been campaigning consistently against HE arts cuts since the Government announced in Spring 2021 that an important funding stream for arts subjects would be cut by 50%. At the time, the Government threatened that the remaining 50% would be cut in September 2022. If this goes ahead, even more arts courses could be at risk.
Chris Walters, the MU’s National Organiser for Education, said:
“It is tragic to see what is proposed at Wolverhampton and Roehampton Universities. Both may cite a lack of demand for arts courses, but thanks to the Government’s cuts it is now more expensive to offer these programmes, so a previously healthy level of demand may now no longer be financially viable.
“We are also seeing far fewer children accessing creative subjects at school, which is filtering through to arts courses. It is also shocking that the Government continues to see arts subjects as low value, when music contributes £5.8bn per year to the UK economy during good times.”
Keeping the UK a global player in music
Commenting on the cuts at Wolverhampton, Stephen Brown, MU Midlands Regional Organiser, said:
“While I understand that finances are behind this decision, I’d urge the university to think again and see what they can do to ensure they save as many of these courses as possible. Once they are lost it will be difficult for the University to rebuild its reputation in this field and attract future students.
“This is sadly the inevitability of Government policy which dismisses cultural subjects, cuts funding, and creates a competitive marketplace in education. It’s clear we need a different approach if we are to remain a global player in music.”
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