An Office for Students' survey has been published to consult on government to proposals to separate "High-cost subject funding: performing arts; creative arts; media studies; archaeology", which are not deemed "strategic priorities", and reduce the government subsidy that tops up student fees by 50%.
Here is the link to the consultation survey: https://survey.officeforstudents.org.uk/s/RecurrentFundingConsultation2021-22/
and you can find the document the survey refers to here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/media/8610a7a4-0ae3-47d3-9129-f234e086c43c/consultation-on-funding-for-ay2021-22-finalforweb.pdf
The Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance and National Centre for Creative Health will be submitting the following response to the relevant questions.
You can respond as an individual or as a representative of a Higher Education institution. The deadline for responses is 5pm on Thursday 6 May.
Question 1: To what extent do you agree with the proposal to distribute a greater proportion of the OfS recurrent grant through the main high-cost subject funding method? (See paragraphs 15 to 36.)
We have serious concerns about the impact of the proposed distribution methods on the broader social, economic and health impacts of the creative and cultural work in the UK and abroad.
We are particularly concerned about the government's devaluation of the arts and culture in comparison with other subjects, and the implications for resilience, community, innovation and critical thinking - all of which will be essential to our recovery from covid and to our capacity to tackle complex social and environmental problems, and build greater equity.
Question 2: To what extent do you agree with the proposal to split price group C1 in order to implement a reduction of 50 per cent to the high-cost subject funding allocated to subjects in the performing arts; creative arts; media studies and archaeology? (See paragraphs 15 to 26.)
We recognise that the bulk of funding for these subjects is allocated from student fees. The cut of 49% to "High-cost subject funding: performing arts; creative arts; media studies; archaeology", however, matches the government's overt deprioritisation of these subjects, which will ultimately profoundly undermine work in the arts and culture - and the critical thinking that goes with this terrain - in the UK.
The arts and humanities are not nice-to-have accessories; they support our health, our communities, and our economy. To effect this support, however, they have to be embedded in our education.
The evidence of the impacts of creative practice and culture on our health and wellbeing, and on strengthening our communities - and the central role this will play in "levelling up" - is indisputable. See for example the DCMS report from September 2020: The role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing (Fancourt, Warren & Aughterson, September), available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evidence-summary-for-policy-the-role-of-arts-in-improving-health-and-wellbeing; and also https://medium.com/policy-postings/the-hidden-value-of-the-arts-in-levelling-up-1dd5af95ca05.
The arts and culture have been critically important to supporting our mental health through the pandemic (see Mak, Fluharty & Fancourt 2020, available at https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/rckp5). Thousands of organisations and freelancers have worked to reach the most vulnerable people in our communities, whether shielding at home or in institutions from care homes to hospitals (see https://www.culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk/how-creativity-and-culture-are-supporting-people-institutions-during-covid-19).
Without the government recognising the value of this work and investing appropriately, it simply cannot exist - careers in this sector will cave in as people are unable to sustain them, and the UK's international reputation for excellence and innovation in the arts and culture - and the 'soft power' this brings with it - will collapse.
Question 3: Notwithstanding your answer to question 2, if we were to split price group C1 as proposed, to what extent do you agree with our approach to implementing this? (See paragraphs 27 to 28 and Annex B.)
"The government proposes that the courses in price group C1 that are not among its strategic priorities – covering subjects in music, dance, drama and performing arts; art and design; media studies; and archaeology – are to be subject to a reduction of 50 per cent. We will refer to these subjects as constituting a new price group: C1.2."
To split the arts and culture away from other subjects reinforces a divide and an intellectual hierarchy between science and the arts. This goes against everything we already know about how essential creative learning is to developing innovation in science, and everything we are currently learning about how creativity and culture supports broader society. Researchers and academics are working hard to break down the silos in education to support wellbeing, to foster diversity, and to allow us to come up with imaginative solutions to urgent social problems. STEM work can only be improved through a STEAM model. Without solid education in creative and analytical subjects, we are less resilient, and less able to innovate.
Question 13: Do you have any comments about any unintended consequences of these proposals, for example, for particular types of provider or for particular types of students?
If the new price group were to be constituted, this will have unintended impacts on the DHSC's agenda for social prescribing. We are currently involved in discussions about how to embed training in socially engaged work into the arts, culture and archeology in higher education to ensure students are adequately equipped for the community-based work they currently enter into upon graduation. (For examples of this kind of work please see https://www.culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk/resources/case-studies).
Our recommendations are to invest more in preparing creative and cultural workers for socially engaged practice so that initiatives like social prescribing are effective, and to ensure these workers are able to sustain careers in socially engaged practice, and develop the quality and safety of this work. If we invest less in the arts in higher education, this will lead to risky practice, and will undermine efforts to collaborate across health, social care, education and the arts, as creative practitioners come into the workforce unprepared.
Question 14: Do you have any comments about the potential impact of these proposals on individuals on the basis of their protected characteristics?
Cuts to arts subjects and the proposal to separate the arts into a separate category will inevitably negatively impact diversity and inclusion in the cultural sector. The arts will be seen as a second-rate choice that the government does not prioritise and will not invest in. They will become the preserve of more elite groups who can afford to invest in a career without the safety net of government investment and support.
The changes will disproportionately and adversely affect students with a disability, and those with cognitive or learning difficulties and mental health conditions. As the consultation document points out, subjects such as design, creative and performing arts, media, journalism and communications attract higher proportions of such students. The document also points out that such subjects attract fewer students from African, Caribbean, Asian and other ethnically diverse backgrounds. Cuts to such subjects will reinforce the barriers that already exist, and will therefore undermine the levelling-up agenda. The changes are thus in direct contradiction with the stated objective of the OfS:
‘All students, from all backgrounds, and with the ability and desire to undertake higher education: are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education’.
Given considerable research evidence from the Centre for Cultural Value and others on the disproportionately severe pandemic impact on employment opportunities for people with protected characteristics, and the pre-existing inequalities within the cultural sector, we would ask government to alert us to what Public Sector Equality Duty Assessment has been undertaken for these plans.
This response was developed in collaboration between the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance and the National Centre for Creative Health. You can also read a very helpful response from the Cultural Learning Alliance here.