We just can't afford the arts, says Wolverhampton University chief

Performing arts courses need to be sacrificed for The University of Wolverhampton to thrive, the deputy vice-chancellor has said.

Professor Julia Clarke
Professor Julia Clarke

The university announced last week it is suspending recruiting students for 138 courses – many of them in the arts.

Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Julia Clarke, a former accountant, was appointed in 2020 to "maximise opportunity; drive economic and social transformation in the Wolverhampton region and beyond".

At an online question-and-answer session with students she explained the reason for the courses' suspension was purely financial.

Professor Clarke said: "We do not have the number of students asking to join those courses to make a viable cohort.

"The School of Arts' costs are significant in that costs exceed income. We need to have a thriving university in the Black Country, in Wolverhampton, and for that we can not do courses that we ultimately cannot afford.

"I recognise the arts has lost a higher proportion of courses but there are also courses which are having recruitment suspended in engineering, built environment and health and wellbeing."

The university is still refusing to reveal the full list of courses for which it has suspended applications for next September.

Professor Clarke explained the university had used data and historic applications numbers to decide which courses would not have enough students in the next academic year.

Students and staff have accused the university of "sacrificing the the arts for profit".

Professor Clarke said: "It can be unsettling if you are on a course and hear recruitment is suspended. I know there is anger in the School of Arts about this. But students need to have lots of other students to learn off in a course, and the number of applicants meant it would not be a viable cohort."

All of the university's campuses - including Walsall, Telford and Burton - are affected by the course closures.

One of the 138 courses being axed by University of Wolverhampton dates back to the 1850s. The teaching of glass blowing has been part of the Black Country and based in Stourbridge for generations but the university has called time on the course.

Councillor Wendy Thompson, leader of the Conservatives in Wolverhampton, lamented the loss of so many courses at the university.

She said: "I have read that some of the courses have been suspended, which is always a great pity if students are disappointed when they have plans they've made in regards to their future expectations.

"It's extremely important we have a flourishing university and that's what we want to see more than anything."

Councillor Thompson added she hoped if there was any "appropriate action" which can be taken to re-instate the suspended courses, then the university would take this action.

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