A planned 50% funding cut to arts subjects at universities in the U.K. has been met with fierce resistance.
The UK's Office for Students (OfS) and the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, rolled out a plan that reduces spending for “high cost” higher education arts subjects in England from £36m to £19m, with the savings redirected to other areas from nursing to computing, reported The Guardian.
“Our proposed reforms only affect the additional funding allocated towards some creative subjects, and are designed to target taxpayers’ money towards the subjects which support the skills this country needs to build back better,” a Department for Education spokesperson said.
Leading research universities in the Russell Group protested against the proposed cuts, including University College London, which stands to lose £5.8m – saying the plan will particularly affect universities in London and their ability to attract disadvantaged students or those from under-represented backgrounds.
A Russell Group spokesperson said: “Plans to increase government funding for skilled specialist subjects like medicine, science, technology and engineering, which have been underfunded for many years, are a positive step. However, it is disappointing those gains are at the cost of other subjects such as creative arts and London-weighting where universities face higher costs and there are some of the country’s most deprived areas."
Rob Pepper, a visual artist and Principal of Art Academy London, spoke out about the proposed cuts. Pepper, whose work was once gifted by the UK as an official state gift to China, slammed the proposal as "hammering a nail into a poorly designed coffin filled with centuries of artistic achievement," with the move raising further barriers to studying art for people of lower economic backgrounds.
Pepper adds: "The erosive impact of this on UK culture goes way beyond artistic output. It will further marginalise people who dare to think differently and exclude their voices from being heard."
"As we can see in this most recent consultation, there is also an odd bias towards certain classical art forms such as education for orchestral string players, as opposed to ‘less vocational’ areas of study such as fine art," notes Pepper. "As an arts graduate, Principal of an art school and a practising artist myself, I find this attitude short-sighted and inaccurate. I do still see, from nervous parents and society at large, the perception that studying art is the romantic – perhaps even naïve – choice but studying at art school is a rigorously structured process that sets up people with skills for life: it teaches students to think creatively across disciplines and provides them with the tools to realise their artistic potential and gain future employment."
"The UK has a rich history of art students emerging to define culture, one that we are in danger of losing if arts education isn’t championed and supported," says Pepper.