The Musicians’ Union (MU) is deeply disheartened by aspects of the Government’s latest higher education (HE) reforms announced yesterday. While most media coverage of the reforms has focused on changes to student loan repayments, the Government’s announcement also contained funding information that could threaten the future status and viability of music and arts courses.

Last year, funding for music and arts university courses was cut back despite widespread outcry from the MU and the broader cultural sector. The Government justified the cuts by claiming that the funding was needed for science subjects ‘that support the NHS.’

Now, a new £900 million ‘strategic priorities’ investment will be targeted primarily at the same subjects, which the Government sees as ‘high return.’ There was no mention of any investment in creative or arts subjects, ignoring our vital creative and music industries, which are worth a minimum of £112bn and £5.8bn respectively.

Meanwhile in a supposed drive to raise standards, the Government is consulting on ‘controlling’ overall student numbers in order to prioritise ‘high priority subject areas which are important to the economy.’ Given the Government’s failure to recognise the economic value of music and the arts, the MU is concerned that courses in these subjects could be at risk. In addition, the MU is once again raising concerns about how the Government’s policies are excluding disadvantaged, disabled, and ethnic minority students from HE arts courses.

Chris Walters, the MU’s National Organiser for Education, said:

“It is depressing but predictable to find the Government using the same rhetoric around ‘strategic priorities’ that it used to justify the cuts it implemented last year. We must now redouble our efforts to challenge the Government on its total disinterest in much of the UK’s excellent music and arts HE training provision.

“In addition, minimum qualification requirements for student loans and changes to loan repayments are likely to have a significant adverse effect on both MU members and the professional musicians of the future. Once again we see the Government closing the door to wider access rather than opening it.”

The Government has opened a consultation on these issues with a closing date of 6 May and the MU is encouraging members to submit their views, in particular, on student number controls and minimum eligibility requirements.