Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 76

Submission from Arts Council England


  1.1  Arts Council England works to get more art to more people in more places. We develop and promote the arts across England, acting as an independent body at arm's length from government.

  1.2  Universities are vital in sustaining economic drivers and particularly in the creative and cultural industries. They are central to creating the arts workforce, supporting innovation and high quality arts opportunities. In the last 10 years we have invested nearly £90 million in supporting initiatives, infrastructure and projects within the sector. In 2007 we published a strategy to profile our relationship with the higher education sector.

  1.3  We are concerned that the proposed changes to equivalent or lower qualifications have been created as a model to replace government funding with funding from employers. This model may work for private sector employers, but would have a detrimental impact in the cultural and creative sector, which is comprised of small to medium enterpises, social enterprises, public and not-for-profit organisations who are not capable of bridging this funding gap. This approach could therefore lead to a skills defecit in a sector that is a key contributor the national economy.


  2.1  The creative industries contribute significantly to our economy, at least 7.3% of GVA and 1.1million jobs, with a further 800,000 in creative occupations in other sectors. Over the last ten years thay have grown twice as fast as the rest of the economy (Creative Industries Economic Estimates, DCMS, 2007). The UK has the largest creative sector in the EU and in London the creative industries add £21 billion annually to London's output. The growth of this sector will be hampered if there is a decline in the number of places available to pursue a career in the arts.

  2.2  In the case of the cultural and creative industries the proposal of co-funding from our sector is unrealistic and there is limited capacity or income within the sector to absorb these costs. The creative and cultural sector is constituted by a large number of freelancers and SMEs (small to medium enterprizes). According to recent statistics from Creative and Cultural Skills 95% of all creative and cultural industries in England employ less than 10 people. A recent DCMS report revealed that high proportions of creative industry firms have no training plan (64%) or no training budget (70%) (An Assessment of Productivity Indicators for the Creative Industries, DCMS, August 2007). In the career paths of those employed in cultural occupations there is a greater incidence of, and a continuing movement towards self-employment. Within our industries only the larger companies have the funding or capacity to arrange staff training.

  2.3  We understand the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills' decision to reallocate public funding for higher education to support for students that are entering higher education for the first time, or progressing to higher qualifications. However, we also believe that the proposed exemptions do not take into consideration the impact of this decision on widening participation in the cultural and creative industries. Achieving greater levels of diversity in the workforce is recognised as an important factor for growth in the creative industriese. Although black and ethnic minorities make up only 8% of the UK workforce they are 35% of the workforce in London where more than half the audio visual industry (Skillset, 2006) and 31% of design businesses are located (Design Council, 2006), however the number of black and ethnic minorities in the workforce are lamentably low at only 9% in new design businesses (CCSkills/Design Council, 2006) and only 7% in the audio-visual industries (Skillset, 2006). To change the make up of the creative workforce we need to ensure that opportunities are available to students at all stages.

  2.4  We do agree with the Higher Education Funding Council for England's proposal to continue providing public funding for students studying for a foundation degree as an equivalent or lower qualification. However, we need to ensure that there are progression routes available for people at later stages in their careers. An increase in the proportion of older people in the population will create an increased demand for adult continuing education, particularly if more people stay in employment beyond current retirement age. UCAS figures from 2002 entry show that 54% of all applicants aged 30 and over wanted to undertake an undergraduate qualification in the art, humanities and social sciences. All these activities contribute to the nation's social and economic well-being. Continuing professional development (CPD) and life long learning should be accommodated in these proposals. We also have evidence that in regions such as London there is demand for Higher Level skills and further emphasis on Foundation Degrees without clear conversion to Level 4 qualification.

  2.5  Although we agree with the Higher Education Funding Council for England's proposal to aim to provide `safety net' funding to maintain each institution's grant at a comparable 2007-08 level in cash terms, we believe that the implementation of the broader ELQ proposals could be delayed until the Student Fee Regulations and the Student Support Regulations have been reviewed and redrafted and there is more robust data.

  2.6  We understand that some of our Higher Education partners and in particular the Conservatoires will be affected if the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills' funding decision for ELQs goes ahead. We believe that arguments previously presented by the Conservatoires (UK) and other Higher Education partners via the Higher Education Council for England's consultation process should also be given careful consideration. Conservatoires have played a significant role in nurturing talent and innovation that has led the UK and in particular London to become the Creative Capital of the world.

January 2008

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