As an association representing the interests of university students, teachers, and researchers in media, communication, cultural studies and associated fields, we are deeply concerned about recent announcements of closures and cuts in these areas. These follow substantial cuts in funding for arts, humanities, and social sciences subjects arising from the Government’s imposition in 2021 of a 50% reduction in recurrent and capital funding for areas not regarded as being of ‘strategic importance’ – including, ‘performing and creative arts and media studies’. This is despite 95% of respondents (including MeCCSA) strongly disagreeing with the proposals in the public consultation.
We wish to express our strong support for those of our members who are currently suffering the impact of cuts to their subject areas. In extremis, colleagues are being served notices as being at risk of redundancy, forced to reapply for a reduced number of roles, or facing programme and / or department closures. Closures and restrictions of this kind also severely damage the choice available to students about what and where they can study.
This situation belies the excellent quality of work in media, communication, and cultural studies across UK universities as highlighted again in the recent REF exercise. The results announced only this month reflect not only excellence in conducting research, but also success in engaging with a diverse range of communities (locally, nationally and internationally) who can use and benefit from research in these fields. The impact of research in these fields extends across a range of sectors and contexts, including education, culture, policy-making, health and wellbeing, civil society and public understanding, media and cultural organisations and practices, as well as economic prosperity. The REF results also demonstrate the range, versatility, and diversity of research in media, communication, and cultural studies in UK universities.
The central and growing importance of communications, the online world, and media generally in the lives of UK citizens makes it unthinkable that universities would not deliver rigorous, thorough, and properly resourced teaching and research of high quality in these areas. The value of the subject areas with which we are concerned is also underlined by the large and rapidly increasing numbers employed in those sectors of the economy related to media, information, journalism and digital arts etc. The sector ‘contributed about £112bn to the UK economy in 2018, a 43.2% increase in real terms since 2010’ (in estimates calculated by Oxford Economics).
That 9.5 million people are employed in publishing and information services, media and communication, performing arts, and related areas is one simple indicator of the strategic significance of these fields. Annual data from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services continue to show that employment levels of graduates from these fields are among the highest of all subject areas, whether directly into those sectors, or into other fields where their training and skills are recognised and valued. All that is set at risk by any failure properly to resource teaching and learning.
MeCCSA stands in solidarity with the unions that protect the jobs and employment rights of teachers, lecturers, and researchers in these subject areas. The health and diversity of our field are already under threat, and in the interests of all our members, of students both current and prospective, and of the wider community, we strongly object to the proposed changes and support the continued opposition to them.
Statement prepared by MeCCSA Executive Committee.
Contact for enquires: Einar Thorsen, Chair of MeCCSA.