These students are absolutely fuming about the government’s lack of respect for the arts
They deserve better than a 50 per cent cut to funding
Branded as “dead-end courses” by the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, arts and humanities departments are facing increasing pressure and mounting hostility all over the UK. Most recently, a 50 per cent cut to student funding for art degrees was proposed by the government in an effort to redirect attention to the more “useful” STEM subjects.
Whilst the war between STEM subjects and the arts is by no means a new one, these actions, which pit one subject against another, serve to reinforce the idea that creativity in young people isn’t a worthy investment.
To better understand the detrimental impact of devaluing the arts, The London Tab spoke to two Goldsmiths students, Lewis and Katie, about the effects of the proposed cuts.
‘What I found most upsetting was being told the thing I feel so strongly about is meaningless’
For arts students like Katie, who’s just finished her Bachelor of Music, the government’s historic lack of care for her discipline is painfully clear.
Comparing studying the arts to a ticking time bomb, she said: “It constantly feels like the rug is going to be pulled out from under you.” Katie explained that art students live in constant fear of being unable to pursue their passion due to the ever-depleting resources and lack of financial support available for art degrees. “At some point, someone will tell you that you can’t do what you love anymore and that you need to move on,” Katie told The London Tab. “It is a difficulty that the STEM subjects will never have to face.”
Lewis, a finalist in Performance, Politics & Society, told The London Tab he felt most upset when the government reduced the subject he loved to something “meaningless.” These students aren’t the only ones who feel strongly about preserving the arts, though. According to a recent poll conducted by the Public Campaign for the Arts, 70 per cent of British adults think students should have the choice to study creative arts subjects in higher education whilst a further 57 per cent think the government should maintain funding for these degrees.
‘When the arts are oversaturated by one singular voice, it loses its critical edge’
Marginalised and underrepresented students would be most severely affected by the proposed cuts and, as a student from a working-class background, Lewis is increasingly troubled by the inequality which the cuts would impose.
“I can see a return to the archaic white middle class student body due to the cuts,” he explained. “With the lack of funding to the institution for arts-based subjects, I can imagine fees being increased or student rent to cover the deficit and this would exclude a number of students from marginalised backgrounds.
“I certainly wouldn’t have been able to come to university. When the arts are oversaturated by one singular voice, it loses its critical edge and connection to communities.”
‘Think about your consumption of the arts and the lifeline that it gives’
Many arts students also believe that one of the most striking aspects of the recent debate surrounding funding for the arts is the government’s blatant ignorance towards the importance of artistic expression. A spokesperson from the Department for Education explained that the proposed reforms were designed to reallocate taxpayer’s money towards “the subjects which support the skills this country needs to build back better.”
However, as Katie points out, we have continuously relied on media and entertainment during the most difficult moments of the past year. “Without the funding for the arts, so many of the things that provided a lifeline for us in such a hard time would be completely stripped back,” she explained. “If I could say one thing to the government, I’d say: think about your consumption of the arts and the lifeline that it gives literally millions of people in our country.”
Others, like Lewis, have pointed out that the arts will also make a huge difference when the world will slowly begin returning to normal. According to Lewis, the community-based arts are a powerful way to combat the inevitable mental health crisis. “Coming out of the pandemic, we need stronger community ties and support networks for those who have felt incredibly lonely,” he told The London Tab. “But, yet again, the government choose to not support the public and the artists who could facilitate these social projects.”
‘The arts give the world something that other subjects cannot do’
Lewis and Katie both believe that it is through the arts that liberation can occur. Their subjects focus on individual expression whilst also creating a sense of community unlike any other.
Lewis explained that “creativity allows us to reimagine our spaces, engage in new, more embodied learning, and share ideas collaboratively.” Katie added that art degrees are unique in that they allow students to become inspired by others and encourage a deep sense of creativity. For this reason, she believes that it is important for universities to continue to offer students the option to study something that is not purely academic “although so many parts of the arts are more academic than people think.”
‘Creativity can be a protest. And if these cuts go ahead, creativity will be a protest.’
In light of the recent public disdain for the arts, Lewis finished his conversation with The London Tab by saying the arts are necessary for the ability to think critically. He believes one of the reasons the government are so averse to the arts is because, by engaging with art, people develop critical minds and openness of ideas.
“In a government like ours, by eliminating as much criticality as possible from the public, those in power can continue to exert more control,” he explained. “Creativity can be a protest. And if these cuts go ahead, creativity will be a protest.”