Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the University Museums Group (arts 24)

A summary of this submission’s main points

· University museums collectively hold some 30% of the nation’s Designated collections

· Their funding is arguably more precarious than that of any other group of public museums

· They receive no core revenue funding from DCMS

· They represent an invaluable and under-recognised resource for both the education and broader cultural sectors

· They have, historically, been unable to rely on the consistent lobbying by DCMS within Government to press their funding Department (DfE via HEFCE) to recognise the nature of its responsibility for a significant ‘slice’ of the national heritage

1. Introduction

The University Museums Group is a membership body representing and advocating the interests of the United Kingdom’s one hundred or so publicly-accessible university museums. It works closely with its membership, with universities and with relevant strategic and funding bodies to ensure both

that university museums are more widely recognised as an outstanding national resource and that they afford the best possible academic and wider community access to their collections and expertise. In 2004 the Group published ‘University Museums in the UK: a National Resource for the 21st Century’ (available at

Given other more general submissions being made on behalf of the museum sector as a whole (e.g. the Museums Association’s) we intend unashamedly to focus briefly on the particular concerns of the nation’s university museums and galleries.

2. The Context

2.1 University museums and galleries comprise about 2% of the UK’s

museums, yet they hold 30% of the collections designated by DCMS as

being of outstanding national or international importance.

2.2 Whilst 31 receive partial funding administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (£10m annually in total), most are supported entirely through discretionary allocations made by their host universities from the universities’ core teaching and research grants, either directly or via academic departments.

2.3 None receives core revenue funding from DCMS or from any other public

body, although a handful (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester) have

benefited from Designation Challenge funding and/or from project funding

available to ‘hub’ museums within the ‘Renaissance in the Regions’


2.4 In addition to engaging in and/or supporting collections-based research of a kind that, nowadays, is seldom possible in most public museums, university museums have played a significant part in Widening Participation initiatives and in raising educational aspiration and they are, in many cases, the principal point of public access to their host universities.

2.5 Stable funding from HEFCE, parent universities, and in some cases Renaissance in the Regions, has transformed the performance of the key 31 HEFCE-funded museums. In the five years from 2003-08, HEFCE funding helped university museums to increase public visits by 35% to 2.3 million a year, total educational visits by 45% to 243,000 a year, and dedicated further education visits by 159% to 45,300 a year.

3. Funding

3.1 The funding of most university museums and collections is arguably more

precarious than that of any other group of public museums, depending

as it so often does on the vagaries of internal departmental resource

allocations. Most universities do not see the provision of public museums

as their ‘core business’ and in the current climate of under-funding of the

HE sector, museums and their collections are particularly vulnerable

3.2 Whilst those museums recently in receipt of HEFCE funding have been

able significantly to raise standards of stewardship, research, academic

support, public programmes and access, current levels of funding are only guaranteed till the end of 2010-11, and there is considerable uncertainty – and anxiety – relating to HEFCE’s intentions beyond that.

3.3 Additional project-based or Renaissance funding has also enabled

university museums -somewhat artificially, perhaps - to ‘raise their game’

in recent years, but these funding streams, too, have an uncertain future,

particularly after the abolition of MLA and in the light of DCMS commitment to 2012 Olympic funding. Short-term gain is thus likely to become long-term loss as recent levels of activity prove unsustainable.

4. DCMS and other organisations

4.1 We recognise that DCMS has no direct remit of responsibility for university museums but historically we have been both discouraged and, we believe, disadvantaged by our relative ‘invisibility’ to central government, which results from the nature of our governance and funding arrangements

4.2 Since the advent of 5 year core funding by HEFCE and since the availability of Renaissance funding to some university museums, have been considerably encouraged by the higher profile of university museums within the museums sector, and by the increased representation of university museums in on consultative groups

4.3 There is, however, a concern that university museums are not benefiting from the kind of cross-departmental working (in this case with DfE as paymaster of HEFCE) which is being advocated by Government and which would considerably enhance our profile and advance our cause and viability

4.4 We would hope that, if general responsibility for museums goes to the Arts Council, the importance of university museums is recognised, and that they are integrated far more than they have been so far in general museum strategy and policy, through liaison between dedicated Arts Council museum staff and officers of HEFCE

5. Recommendations

5.1 We would encourage DCMS to recognise that, although it has no direct responsibility for university museums, as overall guardian of the nation’s cultural heritage and of the Designated Collections scheme it has a moral and public obligation to act within Government on behalf of their continued survival and well-being

5.2 We would encourage DCMS, with its greater understanding of the museums sector, to work actively as an advocate to DfE in order that DfE may become better informed about the outstanding national value of the university collections which are their direct responsibility

5.3 We would be encouraged by active DCMS support of our efforts to ensure continued HEFCE funding for university museums

5.4 We would urge DCMS and any future body responsible for museums to work closely with university museums and with HEFCE further to raise awareness of the value of their collections and their unique contribution to the museum and cultural sector as a whole

August 2010