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Arts Courses: Funding Reductions

Volume 702: debated on Monday 1 November 2021

1. What recent assessment he has made of the potential impact of reductions in funding for arts courses in higher education on the provision of those courses. (903933)

We value excellent provision in all subjects, including the arts. We recently rationalised the strategic priorities grant to better meet the funding needs of high-cost, strategically important subjects, including in science, technology, engineering and maths.

I know that the Secretary of State studied engineering, and as a chartered engineer myself, I believe it is essential to invest in STEM skills. However, doing so at the expense of arts subjects shows that the Government really are not serious about our future economy. How will he ensure that our £111 billion creative industries have the skills and people they need when he is cutting in half the subsidy for arts subjects? Is he aware that only a fifth of our artists, performers and so on are from working-class backgrounds as it is?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for mentioning my engineering background. As part of the same reform programme, we have asked the Office for Students to invest an additional £10 million in our world-leading specialist providers, many of which specialise in arts provision. On providers losing funding in the reallocation as we send a clear message on STEM, I remind her that that income loss amounts to about 0.05% of those providers’ estimated total income.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that arts subjects do not necessarily lead to arts careers? Does he know, for example, an honourable gentleman who, after doing a philosophy, politics and economics degree at Oxford, became a shopkeeper and now happens to be the Mayor of the West Midlands?

Indeed I do, and he is a great Mayor who is transforming the city of Birmingham and the rest of the west midlands. My hon. Friend is right to remind the House that subjects such as PPE are incredibly important and that many leaders in industry do not necessarily have STEM degrees.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his place. As a neighbour, and possibly a friend, it is good to see him here.

This nation has long produced some of the best creatives in the world—in fact, the arts are a powerhouse for the country’s economy—yet the Government have a myopic view on the value of everything. Their present focus is that ballerinas should be coders, but for decades people from low-income households in particular have not just benefited from their discovery and study of the arts but gone on to enrich this country of ours and, at the same time, generated soft power. I think of people such as Danny Boyle, Tracey Emin, Annie Lennox, David Bowie and Alison Lapper—the list is endless. People’s lives are infused with the arts as they listen to music on their iPods, read fiction, attend museums and watch TV dramas, dance and so on. Given that the UK creative industries are truly global-leading and make such a significant contribution to our economy, why are the Government so determined to limit people’s social mobility and our wider economic success?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend—I think he is—for his question, although I completely disagree with him. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the arts play an incredible role in enriching minds, especially young minds, and in inward investment to the United Kingdom and exports from the UK. We continue to value high-quality provision in a range of subjects critical to our workforce, including the arts. That is why I mentioned the work of the Office for Students in reinvesting an additional £10 million in our world-leading specialist providers, many of which specialise in arts provision.