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Make your voice heard: Government proposal to halve funding for music in higher education

For the 2021-22 school year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has proposed halving funding in higher education for 'high cost' subjects that are not considered a 'strategic priority'. The budget for these subjects, including many creative subjects, would be cut from £36m to £19m in higher education establishments like universities and colleges. The ISM is campaigning to prevent this and with more people pressuring the Government on the same issue, we are more likely to achieve change.

Writing to politicians is an effective way to support a campaign by making them them aware of the strength of feeling around an issue. You can read our advice on writing letters before you get started. Your first-hand experiences are vital for persuading politicians to support our campaigns. So make sure to use your own situation to make it more personal. If you send an e-mail, please cc us in at [email protected] and do contact us to share your feedback about our template letter, or if you would like to know more about campaigning work.

If you choose to write both letters, you can send the letter to the Education Secretary as an attachment when you contact your MP so that they can see what you have said.

Template letter to your MP

[Address of local MP]

[date]

Dear [insert local MP name]

RE: Government proposal to halve funding for music

As one of your constituents, I am writing to ask you to contact the Education Secretary to oppose the proposal to halve funding for creative subjects including music in higher education, raise concerns about the consultation and call for a parliamentary debate on this urgent issue. It is essential that these funding cuts are halted until a thorough consultation can effectively investigate the concerns of our sector.

The suggestion by the Office for Students to reduce funding for performing and creative arts creates an unnecessary and divisive hierarchy of subjects. If implemented, they will be devastating to education provision and have long-term consequences for our world-leading music sector that was worth £5.8 billion to the UK economy in 2019. I am also concerned that the level of consultation was not sufficient to ensure that all relevant stakeholders had the opportunity to express their opinion, especially for such an extreme and far-reaching proposal.

As the Incorporated Society of Musicians (of which I am a member) has noted, creative subjects make a huge contribution to the nation’s wealth, health and wellbeing. They are essential for the UK, not 'low priority' in education. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to protect the pipeline of future talent for the cultural industries by properly funding music and other creative subjects. After the challenges presented by the pandemic, music must be supported at all levels of education rather than abandoned. [Insert short description of your own experiences that demonstrate the importance of music education]

Furthermore, I would like to also raise moral and practical objections to this savage attack on universities and colleges. Research shows that many of the subjects under threat have impressive records on diversity and inclusion, particularly for students with a reported disability. Similarly, the data also shows that removing additional funding for studying in London would disproportionately affect students from minority ethnic backgrounds. For a Government that has spoken about the importance of 'levelling up' the country and improving social mobility, destroying an accessibility success story would be counter-productive.

These proposals have been announced far too late to enable institutions to plan for courses starting in September 2021. By the time the results of the consultation are implemented, it will be too close to the start of term for them to prepare adequately. This is crucial in light of the existing shortage of teachers to deliver music education in schools as, without careful mitigation, these measures would further constrict the supply of new educators.

I am particularly concerned by the Department for Education's comment on social media dismissing valid concerns about this issue. While they are correct that higher education has multiple sources of funding, they are wilfully ignoring the tight budgetary constraints that many institutions are already facing. In addition, it is outrageous to argue that this proposal is needed to provide more money for scientific/medical subjects. While they should be properly supported, it should not be at the expense of other equally valuable subjects which make a contribution to society in other ways. It should not be forgotten that, while science graduates have fought COVID-19, it is arts graduates who have provided the extraordinary cultural output that has kept the UK going through these worrying times.

I hope you will seriously consider my request to raise this important issues and support [music educators] like myself and others across [insert the name of where you live]. Ultimately, the Government must urgently safeguard the arts and uphold Britain’s global reputation for cultural leadership.

Yours sincerely,

Template letter to Education Secretary

Gavin Williamson CBE MP

Department for Education

20 Great Smith Street

London SW1P 3BT

[Date]

Dear Mr Williamson

I am writing to express my dismay about the proposal to halve funding for creative subjects including music in higher education. I would also like to share my concerns about the consultation and call for a parliamentary debate on this urgent issue. It is essential that these funding cuts are halted until a thorough consultation can effectively investigate the concerns of our sector.

The suggestion by the Office for Students to reduce funding for performing and creative arts creates an unnecessary and divisive hierarchy of subjects. If implemented, they will be devastating to education provision and have long-term consequences for our world-leading music sector that was worth £5.8 billion to the UK economy in 2019. I am also concerned that the level of consultation was not sufficient to ensure that all relevant stakeholders had the opportunity to express their opinion, especially for such an extreme and far-reaching proposal.

As the Incorporated Society of Musicians (of which I am a member) has noted, creative subjects make a huge contribution to the nation’s wealth, health and wellbeing. They are essential for the UK, not 'low priority' in education. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to protect the pipeline of future talent for the cultural industries by properly funding music and other creative subjects. After the challenges presented by the pandemic, music must be supported at all levels of education rather than abandoned. [Insert short description of your own experiences that demonstrate the importance of music education]

Furthermore, I would like to also raise moral and practical objections to this savage attack on universities and colleges. Research shows that many of the subjects under threat have impressive records on diversity and inclusion, particularly for students with a reported disability. Similarly, the data also shows that removing additional funding for studying in London would disproportionately affect students from minority ethnic backgrounds. For a Government that has spoken about the importance of 'levelling up' the country and improving social mobility, destroying an accessibility success story would be counter-productive.

These proposals have been announced far too late to enable institutions to plan for courses starting in September 2021. By the time the results of the consultation are implemented, it will be too close to the start of term for them to prepare adequately. This is crucial in light of the existing shortage of teachers to deliver music education in schools as, without careful mitigation, these measures would further constrict the supply of new educators.

I am particularly concerned by the Department for Education's comment on social media dismissing valid concerns about this issue. While your Department is correct that higher education has multiple sources of funding, they are wilfully ignoring the tight budgetary constraints that many institutions are already facing. In addition, it is outrageous to argue that this proposal is needed to provide more money for scientific/medical subjects. While they should be properly supported, it should not be at the expense of other equally valuable subjects which make a contribution to society in other ways. It should not be forgotten that, while science graduates have fought COVID-19, it is arts graduates who have provided the extraordinary cultural output that has kept the UK going through these worrying times.

I hope you will seriously consider these important issues and support [music educators] like myself and others across [insert the name of where you live]. Ultimately, the Government must urgently safeguard the arts and uphold Britain’s global reputation for cultural leadership.

Yours sincerely,