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Stop devastating arts cuts, unions tell prime minister

23 June 2021

The government must immediately halt devastating plans to half grants for university arts subjects in England, said seven trade unions.

UCU, Equity UK, BECTU, Writers Guild of Great Britain, Musicians' Union, Unison and Unite have jointly written to prime minister Boris Johnson to oppose proposed funding cuts to creative and performative arts subjects in the Higher Education Teaching Grant budget for 2021-2022.

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'.

The unions said this '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.'

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.'

You can read the open letter in full here.

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