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5 min read - Saturday 31st July 2021 
The Government vs. The Arts: how will the education cuts affect the creative industries? 
By Lucy Alves
Before the pandemic, the creative industries were growing five times faster than the UK economy as a whole, generating over £111 billion a year. However, artists, curators, designers and creatives are no strangers to the fact the government has given little to no support during this pandemic. Musicians, writers, actors and anyone in the creative and cultural industries have been seriously affected by 3 major national lockdowns. Performers have also felt the repercussions of theatres and venues being closed or opening with reduced seating - in vast contrast to sports taking centre stage, with more than 60,000 people allowed in Wembley Stadium with no social distancing.

Arts education cuts are the next on the list for the Tory government. In May, it was announced that higher education funding would be cut by a whopping 50% as it was not seen as a high priority. The Secretary of State for Education argued that this would help ensure that increased grant funding is directed towards high-cost provision that supports key industries and the delivery of vital public services.

On Tuesday 20th July, it was confirmed these cuts would go ahead despite huge opposition, with approx. 166,000 signing the petition for the Government to rethink the strategy. It comes as a great shock for universities and students who have already been hugely affected by the pandemic.

Damon Alburn, lead singer of Blur, says “look at what’s happening in schools – look at the way art classes and music classes are being sidelined for more digital-based education. It’s so important to keep the arts vibrant.”

So, what does this actually mean for pending art students and educational institutions?

If you are an art student looking to go to university this September, the budget for your course will be cut from £243 per student to £121.50. Although education institutions might not initially see a decline in the quality of teaching, as we start seeing staffing cuts across arts universities, it is likely to affect courses in the longer run.

University of the Arts London (UAL) have commented that this decision undermines the government’s commitment to the creative industries, with institutions forced to reduce investment in high-cost technology and technical support. Despite the fact that the government pledged to invest £1.57 billion in the arts sector in July 2020, creatives of the future may not have the skills they need to succeed in the already cut-throat industry. UAL has therefore claimed these cuts will affect student preparedness for the workplace. With many Arts students already concerned about progression opportunities with full funding, upcoming students will be increasingly deterred from investing in these degrees.

Arguably, London universities are going to take the biggest hit. They are based in a city where the cost of living is expensive, with the average rent price being around £793.96 (2020). Unions have suggested universities will increasingly find it harder to encourage students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to attend.

The UCU (University and College Union) have added that these cuts will hit students and staff from some of the most diverse, and often disadvantaged communities the most, in spite of the university’s efforts to widen participation.

With the government already discouraging students from studying the arts and to re-train in other sectors, it’s easy to see why budding students might sway from starting a university course in the upcoming years. The ‘Plan for Jobs’, launched in 2020, pictured those who work in the arts with graphics suggesting their next job could be ‘in cyber’. Although this sparked outrage amongst the arts communities, it is likely that it influenced young people and their careers when discussing options for the future.

As government-funded universities are taking a hit, it might be time to look towards alternative platforms as a solution. In true Gatekeeper fashion, we have provided a list of potential substitutes for you to check out:

School of the Damned: “SOTD is a year-long alternative art course directed by its students. It was founded as a reaction to the increasing financialisation of higher education. The school is constantly redefined by the motives of its students.”

Motion Sickness Project: “Motion Sickness Project Space is a gallery set in an empty retail unit at the Lion Yard Shopping Centre in Cambridge. Since its launch in 2019, the artist-led space has exhibited emerging artists from all over the UK, particularly supporting those from groups currently marginalised in the art world.” 

Short Supply Manchester: “Short Supply’s goal since day one has been to help out early-career artists from the north by providing opportunities in the form of exhibitions, advice, commissions and access to a lovely network.”

Working Class Creatives Database: “This database is about creating a community amongst working-class artists and encouraging greater representation of the working-class experience within the arts.”

PLOP Residency: “Our ethos is to create a fun immersive residency WITHOUT an application fee. PLOP is free to enter and open to all.”

Conditions Studio: “A low-cost studio programme for artists” based in Croydon

Collective Studio: “The Collective Studio is an annual development programme for early-career artists and/or recent graduate artists and creative practitioners, and we open for applications once a year in May or June.”

(There are so many others! Follow us on Instagram if you haven’t already for updates and further opportunities) 

Gatekeeper Magazine© 2021