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University union calls for end to ‘dangerous assaults’ on humanities

The Union of Universities and Colleges has called on Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to reverse 50% funding cuts to Arts and Creative Subjects (AP)

The universities union has called on the government to act now to end a ‘dangerous attack’ on arts and humanities education.

The Union of Universities and Colleges wrote to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi on Wednesday urging him to reverse the Student Office’s 50% cuts in funding for arts and creative subjects.

In the letter from UCU General Secretary Jo Grady, the union expresses ‘serious concern’ over a ‘new wave’ of layoffs and course closures at UK universities, citing recent announcements from the University of Montfort, University of Roehampton and University of Wolverhampton on dismissals, most of which are based on arts and humanities subjects.

UCU said under current plans 242 academics would lose their jobs at De Montfort and Roehampton, while at Wolverhampton 146 courses would be cut, most of which relate to performing arts, fashion, social sciences, interior decoration and the fine arts.

Ms Grady described the plans as a ‘dangerous assault’ on higher education that would hurt careers and limit students’ choices.

She added that universities had helped widen access to working-class students and accused vice-chancellors of embracing the government’s ‘reductive agenda’, which aims to ‘fuel a bonfire in supply of arts and humanities”.

Ms Grady also criticized the “frequent public attacks on so-called ‘low-value’ courses” and said proposals to introduce student number controls for certain courses risked restricting access to the arts to a ” small elite.

The proposed minimum entry requirements for student loans were also an attempt to “suppress the aspirations of working-class students”, she said.

Speaking to the UCU conference on Wednesday, Ms Grady said: ‘I don’t think there has been a more difficult time to work and campaign in higher and higher education in the UK United.

“But judging by the evidence from the last year, our members, our union, are more than ready to fight.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘The Government continues to support our world-class higher education sector with an additional £750million in funding for universities over the next three years and beyond. more 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds going to college than ever before.

“We are bolstering creative education by offering a £10m boost to the world’s leading specialist providers in 2021-22, including over 10 specialist arts providers, with a further £5m planned for 2022-23. This funding will help improve the diversity and quality of the creative education offer available to students.