The chairman of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance has urged the government to continue specialist funding for such arts schools.
In a House of Lords debate, Labour peer David Lipsey said the number of conservatoire graduates entering jobs following their training, and the subsequent benefit to the economy, justifies the money being spent.
He told peers: “With cuts here, there and everywhere… some might question whether institutions such as the conservatoires should be a priority for public spending, but no one should doubt the contribution they make to the economy.
“Trinity Laban is in the top five higher education institutions in the country in terms of its graduates going into jobs. These are motivated people, who are determined to work and find a way of making a living.”
Lipsey added that the one-to-one teaching, the space needed for practice and the cost of instruments meant conservatoires were more expensive to run than other universities.
Trinity Laban currently has around 1,000 HE pupils, who on average cost £18,000 each per year to train.
Arts conservatoires in England are currently awaiting a decision on whether their exceptional funding will be reinstated for 2013/14, following a review.
The body that provides this money – the Higher Education Funding Council for England – has asked conservatoires to justify their need for exceptional funding. Centres have had to show their “distinctiveness” and “additional public value”, as well as demonstrate that they cannot raise the money elsewhere.
HEFCE has already decreased its annual teaching grants to English conservatoires this year, in line with government reforms that have meant all universities can now charge students up to £9,000 per annum to offset the loss of public funding.
A spokeswoman for the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama in London said the review that HEFCE is conducting is a mechanism to help it make judgements about public funding, which it has to justify.
“We hope the government will continue to support conservatoire training at an appropriate level,” she said.
Meanwhile, in a separate House of Lords debate, Andrew Lloyd Webber expressed his own concerns over cuts to arts education funding.
In a speech made last week, he said: “Funding arts education should be regarded as a serious investment by government, and not an item for cutting. I would like to remind the government in the 50th anniversary year of the Beatles that every penny spent on arts education has historically produced enormous returns to the Exchequer.”