ScreenSkills challenges FE/HE funding cut plans

© ScreenSkills/ Erroll Jones

ScreenSkills has joined with colleagues across the creative industries in objecting to government proposals to cut funding to further and higher education courses in screen-related subjects.

We have made a formal submission to the consultation on the proposed changes, registering our strong disagreement with plans to slash by 50% the government funding available to subjects in the performing arts, creative arts and media studies.

Tim Weiss, ScreenSkills’ Director of Vocational Skills, says: “We disagree with this proposal as it will reduce the pipeline of new graduate entrants to the screen industries. The creative industries overall contributed £115.9bn GVA in 2019, accounting for 6% of the UK's overall GVA, and specifically the sectors supported by ScreenSkills (film, TV, VFX, animation and games) are the largest contributors within this part of the economy.

“The number of jobs in the creative industries is growing quickly, by over 30% since 2011 and more than three times the growth rate of employment for the UK overall. With a range of new studio developments across the UK, the introduction of new technologies post-pandemic, and the reduced opportunities for EU citizens to take up positions in the UK since Brexit, new graduate employees are critical to the future ongoing growth and economic contribution of the screen industries.”

ScreenSkills notes that the government's own Build Back Better strategy recognises this, stating "the digital and creative industry sectors are a major success story for the UK, and a critical driver of innovation and growth. We will work to ensure that these sectors can flourish".

Tim Weiss adds: “We therefore strongly disagree that the screen-related degree and postgraduate courses in film, TV, animation, VFX and games should suffer a reduction in funding, when they play a critical role in the future growth of the UK economy post-Covid.”

Plans to remove funding for targeted students attending courses in London might also affect the sector, as London and the South East remains the largest production hub despite more production  being commissioned and made in the nations and regions.

However, ScreenSkills would welcome greater support for economically disadvantaged students in order to increase the diversity of graduates entering our industries.

Tim Weiss says: “Traditionally there have been too many young people entering the industry based on their family networks and their ability to afford working in low-paid runner positions while living in London and the South East.

“High-quality degree courses provide a fairer opportunity for students from a wide variety of backgrounds (many progressing from FE colleges) to enter the industry based on their skills and hard work, and the underlying quality of the course. Reducing the available funding for HE courses in screen-related subjects will reduce the opportunities for students from more diverse backgrounds to enter the screen industries. It’s essential to test the quality and value of degree courses in preparing students to work successfully in entry-level roles in the screen industries and we do this with our endorsement scheme ScreenSkills Select.  In comparison, the government’s funding proposals feel like a blunt instrument for achieving this aim. ”

 The ScreenSkills submission to the consultation notes that some colleges and universities running more niche courses that support important specialist parts of the screen industries might suffer disproportionately from a reduction in funding, making it impossible to run these courses viably.

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