Open letter to Education Secretary opposing funding cuts in creative higher education

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Dear Education Secretary,

RE: Higher Education Teaching Grant Funding 2021-2022

As the union for performers and creative practitioners in the UK, Equity openly writes to you in opposition to the proposed funding cuts to creative and performative arts subjects in the Higher Education Teaching Grant budget for 2021–2022.

In your Guidance letter to the Office for Students of 19 January 2021, you highlight the Government’s plans to prioritise the allocation of funding to “subjects vital to the economy and labour markets”. You will be aware that the creative industries of the United Kingdom generate £111 billion for the UK economy each year, with the creative sector in 2020 growing five times faster than the UK economy as a whole prior to the Coronavirus crisis. However, the 2021-2022 T-Grant budget proposes a 50% reduction in funding for the performative and creative arts subjects that fuel this vital economic growth. Creative and performative courses form the spaces in which each generation of the UK’s creative workforce trains and prepares to enter our industry. The proposition to halve their allocated funding is to take a sledgehammer to the health and diversity of our multi-billion pound creative industry.

Your Guidance letter states that “support for disadvantaged and underrepresented students” via the proposed T-Grant budget is of utmost priority to the Government. However, the Government has failed to recognise that these proposed cuts will limit the availability of affordable training in our industry and see potential future artists financially edged out of the creative workforce. Raised tuition fees as a result of reduced Government funding will create monumental barriers to students from low-income backgrounds who deserve to take their place in the creative workforce. The UK creative industry is world-class because those of all worldly and class backgrounds contribute to its makeup.

We wish to draw your attention to the petition from Public Campaign for the Arts to stop these 50% funding cuts to arts subjects in Higher Education. At the time of writing, a collective of 80,000 industry workers, creative students, arts consumers and household names are united in protest via this petition. Together, we oppose this attack on arts education and the future of creative industry in the UK as we know it.

Thursday 6th May 2021 may mark the closure of the Office for Students’ consultation on these proposals, but it will not mark a change in urgency from Equity or the creative workforce for the Government to recognise the disastrous effects that these proposals will cause. We call on the Government to reconsider the impact of the 2021-2022 T-Grant budget and the consequences that further proposed reductions of future years will cause for our industry.  We urge you to ensure that the UK creative industry does not become a casualty of this proposed “reform” of Higher Education.

Yours sincerely,

Paul W Fleming
General Secretary, Equity