Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, told the organisation’s annual meeting in London on 26 November he has “huge sympathy” for arguments that such subjects should receive direct public investment.
However, he said the economic situation meant a decision has been made to cut teaching funds from all courses, and the net effect will be that such subjects would lose subsidies altogether.
Sir Alan said there is not only an issue about the “inherent value” of arts and humanities subjects but also “the importance of having universities with a broad range of disciplines”.
“If you ask me on a personal level, am I comfortable living and working in a country that doesn’t put some public funding into arts and humanities, the answer is no,” he said. He added that the question of public investment in higher education had to be revisited in the future.
“If we want to invest in our higher education system across the broad range of disciplines…we can’t simply do that by racking up fees,” he said.
Sir Alan also said during a keynote speech that there could be “collateral damage” to the UK’s international reputation for higher education from the current rows over funding.
And he warned the sector: “If we value our students simply for what we get out of them or what they might earn in the future, be assured that they will in turn estimate our value by what they can get out of us and I think that would be a betrayal of our higher education system in the UK.”