Government accused of ‘short-sighted attack on the arts’ over ‘plan being considered to limit student numbers’

·3-min read
The government has been accused of a ‘continual attack on the creative arts' (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The government has been accused of a ‘continual attack on the creative arts' (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The government has been accused of a “short-sighted attack on the arts” over reports it is considering plans to limit the number of students on certain degree courses with lower salary prospects.

The Guardian reported ministers were looking at ways to rein in loan debts, which could include new minimum A-level grade requirements to raise the bar for entry to creative arts courses and others that tend to generate lower salaries.

Academics spoke out against reports the government is considering the plans, with Martyn Evans, the director of the Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University, saying: “I am sick of the continual attack on the creative arts.”

He said: “The creative industries generate huge value to the UK but the government don’t, or don’t want to understand this”.

Professor Elaine Chalus, the head of the University of Liverpool’s history department, said: “Value for this government is measured only in salaries earned.”

She added: “So short-sighted.”

Meanwhile Dr Chris Bolton, a senior lecturer in drama education at Birmingham City University, said he shared the article on Twitter “out of anger rather than surprise”.

Another academic used angry face emojis when sharing the article on social media.

According to The Guardian, the Treasury is understood to want to reduce the number of students on courses which tend to return lower salaries, which mean students are less likely to pay back student loans.

The newspaper said the Department for Education (DfE) was considering ways to limit numbers in subjects with lower salary returns in its review of post-18 education.

One source close to the government told The Guardian: “They would like to control numbers in specific subjects. The Treasury is particularly obsessed with negative return in creative arts subjects.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “There are no plans to limit the growth of the higher education sector, which plays a vital role in giving students the skills and knowledge they need for their future careers.

“The government is committed to driving up standards across post-16 educations ensuring everyone can gain the right skills to secure, well-paid jobs that are critical to supporting the economy.

“We do not comment on speculation in the run-up to fiscal events.”

Earlier this year, a university union condemned what it called the “biggest attack on arts in living memory” over funding cuts.

The Office for Students (OfS) confirmed in summer it would reduce a subsidy given to high-cost courses in the fields of music, performing arts and media.

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