Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education
I am today publishing the report by Lord Murphy of Torfaen on conservatoire and performing arts provision in Wales.
Lord Murphy was asked by the previous Minister for Education and Skills to examine the current arrangements for supporting conservatoire and performing arts provision in higher education in Wales and also to examine the role of the Higher Education Funding Council of Wales (HEFCW) in supporting this provision. He was asked specifically for recommendations on the future funding of conservatoire and related provision in Wales, and for possible future curriculum developments to be identified.
Lord Murphy consulted widely and received 22 written submissions from key stakeholders. The main recommendations of his report are that:
• the revenue funding of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (the College) should be increased from its current base level by some £2.36m per annum, building up over a period of three years from 2017/18, and HEFCW should give consideration to writing off its interest-free loan to the College;
• the College's autonomy should be reinstated, its name should be changed to "The Royal Conservatoire of Wales", and its national role further developed;
• the College, subject to the implementation of the recommendations on funding and governance, should plan to introduce contemporary-dance training at the undergraduate level during the next three years, whilst keeping under review any pressing need for expanded musical theatre provision.
Lord Murphy also suggests that HEFCW might wish, in due course, to establish whether any important features of teaching provision in the creative industries might require, as with the STEM subjects, an expensive-subject premium to cover the full cost of such provision.
I am immensely grateful to Lord Murphy for having agreed to lead this review and for having produced a report which so clearly sets out how we might support and develop conservatoire provision in Wales. The creative industries sector is burgeoning in Wales and it is vital that those industries can continue to recruit people with the skills and expertise they need. Conservatoire and performing arts provision in higher education in Wales must be of the highest quality and it is in keeping with our wider National Mission that we should support excellence wherever it is to be found.
I welcome Lord Murphy’s recommendations. I have already indicated to HEFCW that reinstatement of the expensive subjects premium funding (which includes funding for conservatoire and related provision) should be a priority for any additional investment in higher education from 2019-20 onwards made possible by implementation of the Diamond reforms to HE funding and student finance. In making decisions about future funding allocations, I would expect HEFCW to have regard to Lord Murphy’s recommendations about the base level of revenue funding needed to place the College on a comparable funding base to other competitor institutions. I have also asked HEFCW to work with the College to explore opportunities for widening its current curriculum offer to include contemporary dance training in future.
Lord Murphy’s other recommendations are addressed to the University of South Wales and the College. I am delighted that the University and the College also welcome Lord Murphy’s report and are committed to working together to take forward the ideas set out there. The future status of the College and governance relationships between the College and the University are entirely a matter for the two organisations. However, the Welsh Government and HEFCW will continue to work closely with those organisations and others to ensure that conservatoire and related performing arts provision remains buoyant in Wales and is of the highest quality.