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Performing and Creative Arts, Media Studies and Archaeology

Volume 697: debated on Monday 21 June 2021

What steps he is taking to support universities to provide courses on (a) performing and creative arts, (b) media studies and (c) archaeology. (901503)

This Government value the arts and social sciences. High-quality provision in a range of subjects, including archaeology, is vital for our workforce and public services, and is culturally enriching for society. Universities receive a top-up from the taxpayer for all the subjects referred to, and although the Office for Students consultation has proposed changes to the amounts, it does not seek to remove the top-up entirely.

The Government’s decision to cut funding to performing and creative arts, media studies and archaeology courses by a total of £20 million will diminish our future cultural offer, reduce opportunities for students and put jobs at risk. The University and College Union is campaigning hard to save jobs at the University of Chester; I pay tribute to it for doing so. Nevertheless, the university is still planning to make redundancies in some areas, including music, media and performance. Does the Minister recognise the huge contribution that arts and culture make to the UK economy and to all our lives, and will she support the UCU campaign to save jobs at the University of Chester?

Despite the hon. Member’s claims, the strategic priorities grant accounts for approximately only 0.05% of higher education providers’ total income. The House should be under no illusion that this Government 100% support the arts, which is why we asked the OFS to invest an additional £10 million in our world-leading specialist providers, many of which specialise in arts provision, and why we have spent £2 billion through the cultural recovery programme, plus furlough and plus VAT and other reliefs—more than any other country.

Research by the British Academy has shown that of the 10 fastest growing sectors in the UK economy, eight employ more graduates from the arts, humanities and social sciences than the other disciplines, and MillionPlus states that

“there is an economic imperative to invest in creative arts education…job creation is double the rate of the rest of the economy.”

Just take media studies, which the Government state is not a strategic priority, despite our making some of the best films, TV, theatre and advertising in the world. Last year the UK saw inward investment in co-production spend in film and TV account for 83% of the entire production spend, underlining our global reputation. The Government seem to be unaware that this country is a globally renowned creative powerhouse. Can I just urge the Government to get into SHAPE—social sciences, humanities and the arts for people and the economy? Will the Minister accept that the benefit that this nation derives from university education cannot be measured solely in terms of its immediate economic impact?

Just to reiterate, this Government are not disputing the value of the arts either to our economy or to our society. I want to fully confirm that on the record. We have asked the OfS to consult on altering the high-cost subject funding to enable a reprioritisation of some subjects towards the provision of high-cost subjects that support the NHS and wider healthcare policy, high-cost STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—subjects, and subjects meeting specific labour market needs. I reiterate that this accounts for only approximately 0.05% of higher education providers’ total income.