Media chiefs alarmed by cuts

November 7, 2003

Leading lights of the UK's film, broadcasting and publishing industries warn in The THES today that funding council plans to cut teaching support for media studies courses will damage one of the fastest growing components of the UK economy, writes Phil Baty.

In a letter to The THES , David Puttnam, the Labour peer and Oscar-winning producer of Chariots of Fire , John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council, and five other key industry figures warn against plans by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to fund media courses at the lowest level of teaching.

"Hefce's plans to downgrade all media courses to the lowest 'classroom'

funding category will damage the UK's film, broadcast and publishing industries as well as universities," say the signatories, who include former culture minister Chris Smith.

The letter says: "Alarm has been expressed from the perspective of those universities whose media courses are practice based and equipment intensive. On behalf of the industries affected, we need to add our voices."

The letter comes in response to Hefce plans to review the way it distributes teaching funds, which are allocated according to the relative costs to universities of delivering different subjects.

The council plan pays for teaching through four weighted funding bands: band A attracts the highest level of funding - for expensive subjects such as medicine with clinical elements, and band D gets the lowest - for the cheapest classroom-based areas such as the humanities. Hefce plans to move all media studies courses into band D.

But academic leaders have warned that this could amount to a cut as high as 23 per cent per student, causing serious damage to the field.

In a letter sent last week to Hefce chief executive Sir Howard Newby, the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association expressed its "bewilderment and alarm" at the "extremely disturbing" plans.

The association says many courses require high levels of technology, equipment and studio-based study, necessitating more than the lowest level of classroom-based funding.

This week's letter to The THES warns: "We must distinguish between the costs of vitally important professional practice-oriented courses and those of the far more classroom-based media studies. If we fail in this, the creative industries - the fastest growing component of the UK economy - are in danger of a rapid slowdown."

Hefce has said the changes, which are out for consultation, reflect evidence from a study of relative expenditure per student over recent years.

"We do not allocate funds for specific subject areas, but rather for an institution as a whole. It will continue to be for institutions to decide how their departments are resourced."

Related story:
Hefce's dangerous cut


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