One headline that jumped out of this consultation was the proposal for:
“A reduction by half to high-cost subject funding for other price group C1 subjects – that is, for courses in performing and creative arts, media studies and archaeology”
This relates to the grant that universities in England receive per student for teaching these subjects.
These three subject areas, broadly within humanities, have historically been considered ‘high-cost’ as they have been relatively expensive to teach.
In archaeology’s case, teaching the subject has been expensive because of fieldwork and laboratory costs.
It is important to note that these changes are being proposed as “… part of a package of measures that are designed to protect funding for high-cost and strategically important subjects” – and that means that subjects where the teaching grant is being protected include medicine, engineering, physical and biological sciences, dentistry, nursing and other healthcare disciplines as well as laboratory-based courses.
There are 32 universities teaching archaeology in England. Not every archaeology graduate goes on to work in professional archaeology; not every archaeology student even wants to work in archaeology.
But effectively, every archaeologist working in the UK is a graduate; Profiling the Profession 2020 will show that more than 97% of the 6,300 people employed to work as archaeologists in the UK have at least one degree.
And this work has real, economic value.
4,750 (more than 75%) of these archaeologists work in development-led archaeology, which is managed through the local authority planning system.
These archaeologists are either working on the commercial side as archaeological contractors or consultants, or reporting to local planning authorities as curatorial advisers.
– Commercial Archaeology makes an £218m direct annual contribution to the economy (in England, Scotland and Wales) [this figure can be updated – in 2019-20, it represented £224m – ¼ of a billion pounts]
– For every £1 spent on Local Authority Planning Archaeology, £15 is returned.
– This work provides up to an estimated £1.3bn in savings to the construction industry every year through reduced delay costs
– The provision of Local Authority based archaeological services represented savings to the public purse of up to £245m in savings in 2017-18
This is where the ultimate value of archaeology degrees to England and the UK lies.
Without those graduate archaeologists doing this work, the tangible and quantifiable benefits of the sustainable development that their work supports will be lost.