The British Academy responds to OfS proposals to cut funding for arts courses

6 May 2021

The British Academy has today warned of the unintended but serious impacts of funding cuts for some humanities and performing and creative arts courses, including archaeology, which are the subject of consultation by the Office for Students (OfS) following an announcement by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in January.

Responding to a consultation on recurrent funding for 2021-22, the Academy highlighted that the proposed cuts risk not only narrowing the student body and making the study of performing and creative arts courses an elitist pursuit, but also may hinder our economic recovery. It urges a reconsideration of the distribution of funding to recognise the value of a full range of subjects and skills vital to a thriving economy and environment, vibrant culture and cohesive society.

The proposal from the OfS outlines how it intends to put into place the decision taken by DfE earlier this year. The Academy responded to that decision in its submission in January.

Professor Simon Swain, Vice President for Research and Higher Education at the British Academy, said:

“There is no doubt that these proposals, if enacted, are likely to result in a narrowing of provision and reduced opportunities, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. But the cuts will also have a significant impact on our economy as a whole.

“The performing and creative arts, media studies and archaeology are all vital to the knowledge and skills base on which the UK’s 80% service sector economy depends. The creative economy is one of the most dynamic, productive and profitable sectors of the UK labour market - since 2014, the sector has grown at almost twice the rate of the UK economy, generating around £10m per hour. These industries are now worth £84.1 billion to the UK economy. Meanwhile, the heritage sector, which depends heavily on the insights of archaeologists, is central to the UK’s appeal as a tourist destination, which will be crucial in reopening our borders and rebuilding the economy as the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control.”

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