Last week the UK Government announced a new structure for allocation of the Higher Education Teaching Grant for the 2021-22 financial year which will see archaeology courses receive less government funding than in previous years.
High-cost subject funding is provided to universities for subjects where teaching costs cannot be met by tuition fees alone. Currently archaeology is recognised as an ‘intermediate cost subject’ due to its fieldwork and laboratory teaching components.
A new banding structure will see archaeology courses (along with performing arts, creative arts, and media studies) relegated into a new lower band, resulting in a decrease in funding from £243 to £122 per student per year.
CIfA is concerned that this move will impact the quality of course content offered by many departments and comes at a time where departments are already under unprecedented pressure to deliver teaching.
We note that:
Archaeology is an industry that is worth over £250m per year, and in 2019 employed 5,300 people in roles directly related to the delivery of development, including key national infrastructure projects like HS2, Crossrail, and the A14 corridor project.
Archaeology is a recognised construction skill, with 79% of all archaeologists employed within the development-led sector. Graduate entry is by far the most significant root for archaeologists in the UK sector, with 90% of archaeologists being trained to graduate level.
Although the profession is diversifying entry routes, graduate recruitment is likely to be even more critical in coming years as the opportunity to recruit archaeologists from outside the UK will be reduced following the end of freedom of movement with the EU.
Any move which reduces the quality of vocational training at this time is likely to exacerbate skills shortages in UK construction-led archaeology, which was – pre-pandemic – recognised as being in critical shortage and added to the Shortage Occupation List by Government in 2019.
The move will also harm outcomes of the CIfA accredited degree programme, which aims to ensure that university archaeology courses deliver workplace skills and professional accreditation at Practitioner Grade upon graduation. It is notable that other subjects with Professional, Statutory and Regulatory (PSRB) recognition have retained a higher banding.
Although reducing this funding will not mean that archaeology is no longer taught, we are concerned that it will reduce the effective delivery of vocational skills, particularly for smaller departments with a focus on these skills. This type of teaching more than justifies the 'intermediate' costs and should not be penalised at a time when these skills are in high demand.
CIfA will be urging government to review its decision on the basis that archaeology teaching delivers valuable vocational training in a recognised construction skill, and that trained archaeologists are currently in high demand in the workforce.