The recent news about the rise in tuition fees at university has sparked huge resentment and anger, not only among students and future students but also among their families.  But outrage at the prospect of a disproportionate rise in fees has perhaps deflected attention from the shocking 80% cut in the teaching grant to universities; and the privileging of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) over the humanities, social sciences and arts.  The possible far reaching consequences of these radical steps seem to get little intelligent discussion in media fixated on the immediacy of student protest.

At a time when vocational dance courses have been under pressure to come under the umbrella of higher education funding, and furnish young people with recognised university level qualifications, it now seems a case of “out of the frying pan into the fire”.  Performing arts courses with their studio requirements and high proportion of teaching contact time to independent study, are expensive to run – if unsubsidised by government who will be able to afford them?

How can opportunities for studying the arts be defended and protected in such a hostile climate?  What do the arts bring to universities?  At a time of such financial stringency how would you justify government support for performing arts students?

At a recent day of events on Performances and Texts at Robinson College Cambridge as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Professor Robin Kirkpatrick gave the following lecture on the importance of performance in an academic context – food for thought…