I love my life. I love my job. I love working at one of the top universities, in an amazing discipline. I love what I do. I have worked hard to get here. Some people think I am too young to be at this stage in my career, but I have worked my socks off to get where I am today. I have always known what I wanted to do, there has always been a plan A. People yesterday during the aftermath of the CSR were joking about what their plan B was going to be when Plan A gets slashed by the coalition government. But what if you don’t have a plan B? I have always wanted to do what I am doing now; I don’t have a plan B. At best I have two plan A’s. Both involve museums and learning and digital technology.
What was announced yesterday is frightening; people say it could have been much much worse. I’m sure it could have been. Regardless what has been announced is going to change our society and culture significantly. Especially if you work, in fact work doesn’t cover it, if you love higher education and the cultural sector.
Government funding for higher education is to be cut by 40 per cent over four years, with strong indications that public funding for teaching in the arts, humanities and social sciences may come to an end. The Comprehensive Spending Review unveiled yesterday a reduction in the higher education budget from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion – by 2014-15. Science and other STEM subjects are safe. However, no mention is made of other subjects. Following from the CSR live in the Willetts’ press briefing the minister was asked whether funding for arts would be cut. He didn’t answer. That makes me sick to my stomach.
Not only that; but culture is being slashed. It’s all well and good that parliament cheer when the statement was made that National Museums will remain free. I am thankful for that. But there are only a handfull of national museums and hundreds of non national museums and galleries around the country. What about them? Arts funding is being cut by almost 30% and what about the local authority museums? It is looking increasingly grim.
So much for my plan A’s.
I am not concerned about my short term future, I am lucky that I have a safe and secure cocoon of a 3yr PhD studentship to go into. What I am concerned about, is what will have happened when I emerge from that cocoon. What will the state of cultural heritage be? Will arts and humanities in higher education still exist? If it does will it just be an elitist endeavour for those privileged enough to attend? I am worried about people who are ten years younger than me, who love history, museums and heritage. What is to become of them? What is this government indicating to them? That it’s a pointless endeavour? That cultural heritage and arts and humanities don’t matter? What is to become of our museums? Of our heritage? Our cultural pursuits? Is life over as we know it?
Also I am worried for the people who are just coming out of the cocoon of PhD’s what is to happen to them? If you haven’t read Matt Hayler’s harrowing account of his fears, you should. It puts a chill down your spine.