Drake Music response to proposed funding cuts for music in Higher Education

In a review of Higher Education funding the government is proposing 50% cuts to creative subjects because they are not “strategic priorities”.


We strongly disagree with this proposal because:
• It will have a disproportionate impact on Disabled people
• It will negatively impact inclusion and equality in the arts now and in the future
• The creative sector contributes hugely to our communities and our economy and should be a strategic priority for the UK

There is a consultation by the Office for Students which we urge you to respond to (more info below), and a petition by Campaign for the Arts which you can sign.

Consultation info – Deadline 6th May 2021 – 5pm

(The following link will take you directly to the survey: https://survey.officeforstudents.org.uk/s/RecurrentFundingConsultation2021-22/ )

Petition to Gavin Willamson

empty seats in a university lecture hall
Image: Nathan Dumlao

About the cuts

The funds under discussion are used to support higher than usual teaching costs, as well as to support ‘policy areas and government priorities’. In this instance, that means subjects which come under the STEM banner. The already low funding provided for performing arts, creative arts, media studies and archaeology is set to be cut in half:

• Funding for STEM subjects will increase by 12% to £736m.
• Funding for creative subjects will decrease by 49% to just £19m.
• This equates to 2% of the overall budget for creative subjects and 80% for STEM subjects.

It would already seem clear from the low figure allocated that the creative arts are not seen as a ‘strategic priority’, but these dramatic 50% cuts leave no doubt.

Decisions on this funding allocation will be made in June for the 2021/22 academic year, leaving HE institutions with very little time to plan and prepare.

About the impact

Despite proposing 50% cuts to already low funding, the consultation report states that:
“We believe that courses in the performing arts, creative arts, media studies and archaeology are very important, bringing huge benefit to society and our culture, as well as to the individuals who take them. They make a particularly important contribution to access and participation.

Creative subjects have the highest proportion of Disabled students, of any broad subject group, according to OfS Equality & Diversity data. Therefore, de-prioritising these subjects will disproportionately impact upon Disabled people who already experience disabling barriers to accessing HE in the first place.

For example, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report makes clear, Disabled people are more likely to experience levels of poverty (ref: 1-4 below) and poverty is a major factor in under-represented groups of people not accessing HE.

The Musicians’ Union says:
“the proposed funding cut will be catastrophic for music provision at HE level, affecting our members’ work, the financial viability of music courses, and training for the next generation of musicians and music professionals”.

When we consider the impact upon Disabled people we can also see that it will be catastrophic for inclusion and diversity in generations to come.

We know Disabled People already experience significant barriers to all levels of education, including HE (ref: 5-7).

As an organisation working toward equality, inclusion and better representation in the music education sector (ref: 8) we are concerned by any financial changes in funding that makes this critical aim even harder to achieve and that will have a detrimental effect on access to learning now and in the future.

We are working to open up access to music for all and to remove Disabling barriers. If the opportunities for Disabled people to access creative courses at HE level are limited then the future diversity of our orchestras, teachers, producers, session musicians, composers – and more – is limited too. Disabled people are already under-represented in the workforce, another barrier to education will compound that further.

Music and the creative arts make an enormous contribution to us as individuals and communities, and to our shared cultural and financial life as a nation. Our creative output is recognised and valued the world over and contributes hugely to the economy. We cannot allow this to be taken away.

About the consultation

This proposal deserves a full consultation to build a clearer picture of the potential repercussions of the funding decrease.

There is a consultation currently happening, led by the Office for Students, but it is being carried out in a very short time frame, which will make it inaccessible to lots of people.

The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. They state their aim as “to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.”

You can find the consultation here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/consultation-on-recurrent-funding-for-2021-22/

Please note: If you require the consultation document in an alternative format, or need assistance with the online form, you can contact digitalpublishing@officeforstudents.org.uk.

Drake Music will be responding to Q2 on the consultation to disagree in the strongest possible way:
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.) Please provide an explanation for your answer. If you believe our approach should differ, please explain how and the reason for your view.

The deadline for the consultation is 6th May 2021.

If you cannot meet that deadline, there is also a petition from the Campaign for the Arts to urge Education Secretary Gavin Williams to re-issue guidance on the government’s strategic priorities which you can sign here: https://www.campaignforthearts.org/petitions/stop-the-50-percent-funding-cut-to-arts-subjects-in-higher-education/


  1. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/february/nearly-half-everyone-poverty-either-disabled-person-or-lives-disabled-person
  2. https://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/esss-outlines/disability-poverty-transitions
  3. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/being-disabled-in-britain.pdf
  4. https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2018
  5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1256142
  6. https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/media/1a263fd6-b20a-4ac7-b268-0bbaa0c153a2/beyond-the-bare-minimum-are-universities-and-colleges-doing-enough-for-disabled-students.pdf
  7. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/ahcov-disabled_learners.pdf
  8. https://www.drakemusic.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/We-All-Make-Music-2018-GUIDE-Online.pdf 

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