Graduate students in gowns

Unions publish open letter opposing HE arts subject cuts

WGGB has joined six other trade unions in publishing an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in opposition to proposed funding cuts to creative and performative arts subjects in the Higher Education Teaching Grant budget for 2021–2022.

The other unions are Equity UK, University and College Union (UCU), Bectu, Musicians’ Union, Unison and Unite.

The cuts have been proposed by the Department for Education’s Office for Students body and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, and suggest halving the grants going to “high cost” Higher Education arts subjects in England to prioritise funding to “subjects vital to the economy and labour markets”.

This, the unions write, “threatens the health and accessibility of the entertainment and education sectors, jeopardises the livelihoods of HE and creative workers, and narrows training opportunities for future generations.” You can read the open letter in full here.

WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers said: “The Education Secretary says his plans will reallocate funding to subjects vital to the economy and labour market, yet this makes no sense at all, given that our creative industries generate over £111 billion per year.

“What these cuts will do however is jeopardise jobs and turn back much-needed progress on diversity and inclusion in the arts. They must be stopped.”

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: “These cuts would devastate arts and entertainment provision in higher education, risk widespread job losses and severely reduce access to students. As our letter makes clear, the institutions most vulnerable to these cuts are those with a higher number of under-privileged students. It is simply unconscionable to deny these young people the chance to study subjects like art, drama and music.

“If funding is cut current and future students lose out, because courses that are shut cannot be brought back to life at the drop of a hat. If the Government continues down this track, we could be seeing one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment in English universities in living memory. The Government must cancel its proposed cuts and help protect an industry in which we are world leaders.”

Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming said: “If the Government is serious about a levelling up agenda, they’ll stop these cuts in their tracks. The only way to get authentic, diverse, working class voices into the creative industries is by supporting quality HE provision as part of the training ecosystem. These cuts say that Gavin Williamson believes a reducing number of people can be a professional artist: that can’t be right.”

Sign the petition here.

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