Museum directors and art school leaders demand UK government to ‘end cuts to arts education’

Three hundred personalities from the art world including Tate director Maria Balshaw and artist Sonia Boyce signed an open letter calling on the British government to abandon plans to cut funding for art and design courses at higher education institutions in England by 50%.

“Revoke the policy proposals and ensure the continuation of a success story in the UK … Art is essential to the growth of this country,” said the letter, which is addressed to Gavin Williamson, the UK secretary. ‘Education. Other signatories include Zoé Whitley, director of the Chisenhale Gallery; Alistair Hudson, director of the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester; and Turner Award-winning artist Helen Cammock.

Higher education is a fundamental right of everyone in this country, say the signatories. “This proposal will hurt one of Britain’s fastest growing economies. Creative industries contributed £ 116bn to GVA [gross value added] in 2019 and supports one in 16 jobs.

Representatives from leading art schools, including the Slade School of Fine Art, Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts, London) and Goldsmiths, also signed the letter, organized by the advocacy organization Contemporary Visual Arts Network. Its national director for England, Paula Orrell, says The arts journal: “This proposal to reduce the subsidy limits access to these courses which will be halved or will not exist. It is a precursor to the devaluation of the arts and culture at all levels. ”

In a “guidance” document released earlier this year, Williamson told the Office for Students (Ofs) – the independent regulator of higher education – that he should “put the priority back on funding for provision. expensive and high-value topics that support the NHS … expensive STEM topics [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]”

Each full-time student taking an art course currently receives funding of £ 243 (2020-2021) from the Eggs; under the revised plan, each student would receive £ 121.50. The move would save around £ 20million, Williamson said. The consultation period for planned budget cuts ended last week.

“The gap between the DCMS and the Ministry of Education [under Gavin Williamson] does not match, especially since the DCMS put so much energy into [post-pandemic] cultural recovery. The arts and culture sector is an integral part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, ”said Orrell.

“Consider a regional university where 300 art students see their funding cut in half and the university’s main concern is STEM subjects. I am worried about the impact of these cuts on young people who cannot afford to leave home to go to university, who therefore have to stay at home, and whose options have been reduced ”, adds- she does.

Vanessa Wilson, executive director of the University Alliance, which represents large and medium professional and technical universities, is also opposed to the planned cuts. “There is a real disconnection between the ministries. Basically, this government is talking about upgrading, but this proposal will only create an elite that can study the arts. We talk to employers who say they need graduates with creative and innovative skills. Why kill one of our biggest exports? ” she says.

A spokesperson for the Eggs said the proposed changes relate to a small fraction of the funding for the courses in question, which equates to 1% of the overall funding. “At the same time, we plan to maintain funds to support disadvantaged students and to increase funding for specialized institutions by £ 10million to benefit several drama schools, conservatories and music schools,” he adds. . “We will carefully review all responses to our consultation before making final decisions on changes to our funding. The overall Egg scholarship budget increases slightly next year, from £ 1.47 billion to £ 1.48 billion.

Kayleen C. Rice