Government plans to halve funding for music in higher education will be “catastrophic”, Musicians’ Union warns

Music is not considered a "strategic priority", according to a new consultation

The Musicians’ Union has responded to the government’s plans to halve funding for music in higher education, saying it will be “catastrophic”.

In a consultation for funding for the 2021-22 school year, the Office for Students (OfS) and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson propose to cut funding for “high cost” subjects by 50 per cent.

According to the consultation, subjects including music, dance, drama and performing arts, art and design, media studies, and archaeology are not considered “strategic priorities” by the government.


The document added that although the government wants “provision in those subject areas to continue to be widely available, we believe they are a nevertheless lower priority for OfS funding than other high-cost subjects”.

Boris Johnson playing the guitar (Picture: Getty)

In a response on the official MU website, the group said halving funding would be “catastrophic” and would affect “our members’ work, the financial viability of music courses, and training for the next generation of musicians and music professionals”.

It noted that music brought £5.8billion to the UK economy in 2019, much of which “depend[ed] on properly funded HE provision”. It criticised the notice given as “far too short to enable HE institutions to plan for September” and said the UK’s higher education music provision “could lose its world-leading status as a result of a cut of such a size.

Last year, UK Music renewed calls for the government to introduce a National Plan for Music Education after GCSE results were published. The number of students who took music at both GCSE level and for A-levels dropped in 2020.

“It is now more important than ever that we have a new National Plan for Music Education to help reverse the decline of music in state education,” the trading body’s acting CEO Tom Kiehl said.


“Universal access to music within state education should be a top priority, alongside a broad-based music education within curriculum learning.”