Funding for degrees including footwear production, media studies and floristry will be slashed by 50 per cent, the government has announced. 

Universities in England will lose a total of £17 million of funding for a suite of subjects which also includes performing arts, creative arts and photography.

These subjects are currently categorised as “high-cost” degrees, meaning they receive extra funding from the Government through the teaching grant, an annual lump sum worth millions that is distributed among universities. This is on top of the £9,250 universities charge students each year in tuition fees.

However, under the new system, these “non-strategic” subjects will lose their extra funding, meaning universities may have to run them at a loss.

It comes amid growing concern in Whitehall about courses which are regarded as bad value for both students as well as the taxpayer.

An analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in 2019 found that “creative arts” graduates cost the taxpayer £35,000 each.

Percentage of students likely to end up in graduate employment or further study 15 months after graduating

Subjects such as music, drama, fine art and design studies are the most costly to the taxpayer since so few alumni earn enough money to pay back their student loan in full.

Of the £9 billion that the Government spends on higher education each year, more than £1 billion is on creative arts courses alone, where three-quarters of the total amount dished out in loans is picked up by the taxpayer.

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, confirmed that certain high-cost subjects will continue to receive extra funding from the Government if they are science, technology, engineering and maths degrees; if they support the NHS and healthcare policy; and if they are conducive to “specific labour market needs”.

Under the current funding system, universities receive an extra £243 per student per year of taxpayer funding for each undergraduate place for “high cost” creative arts subjects including design studies, clothing production, gardening, cinematics, drama and art.

But this will be cut down to £121.50 in the new regime, which will start when grants are paid to universities at the end of this month.

Government accused of ‘vandalism’

On Tuesday, the lecturers’ union accused ministers of approving “one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment in English universities in living memory”.

Jo Grady, general secretary of University and College Union, said the funding cut amounts to “vandalism” and warned that it could risk “widespread job losses”.

She added: “This drastic cut to creative arts funding is one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment in English universities in living memory.

“It will be hugely damaging for access, creating geographical cold spots as many courses become unviable – including at institutions in the capital where London weighting funding is being removed.

“The universities most vulnerable are those with a higher number of less well-off students and it is unconscionable to deny them the chance to study subjects like art, drama and music.

“This announcement undermines the huge contribution the creative arts sector makes to society and the wider economy, and ministers should be careful not to try and fool anyone by suggesting a comparatively modest increase for some select specialist institutions will make up for this act of vandalism, which will risk widespread job losses within these vital subjects.”

The Office for Students added that funding for specialist institutions will increase by £10 million, which will include grants for “world-leading institutions delivering courses in the performing and creative arts”.