Dr Sachania’s letter, published in The Times on Monday 3 May 2021, has received over a quarter of a million engagements on Twitter and thousands of comments of support vowing to push back against the current national government’s plans to defund and relegate the study of arts on the UK as ‘non-strategic’.
The government is proposing a reduction by half to the Office for Students’ funding of subjects such as music and the performing arts, since they are apparently no longer strategic priorities (“Consultation for recurrent funding for 2021-22”, https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/consultation-on-recurrent-funding-for-2021-22/).
Quite apart from disregarding the value of the creative industries to the UK’s economy — £11 billion a year in 2019 — this proposal reflects a depressingly utilitarian view of education. Subjects such as music connect us to the essence of what it is to be human. They nurture the skills of value judgment required for negotiating a reality that is non-binary and complex. Crucially, they are the fount of well-being and spiritual refreshment, particularly valuable as we navigate our way out of these Covid-darkened times. And they are intellectually rigorous. I defy ministers to learn to write in the style of J. S. Bach or explain Stravinsky’s music in its cultural contexts.
Dr Millan Sachania