Students See Artwork Spending Rise at Top Universities

A damning investigation has suggested that university spends on artwork are sky-high, despite students’ tuition fees and additional costs rising year-by-year.

High Spending

The damning investigation published by the BBC has discovered that universities across England have spent over £20million on art collections since 2010. Pareto Law reviews what this could mean to potential students who are left to pay the raised tuition fees.

The University of Oxford, rated one of the best education establishments in the world, was the top spender on artwork after spending £7.9million on a single piece of artwork. Its combined total eclipsed its nearest rival in the results table. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Oxford’s Boat Race rival Cambridge came second having spent an eye-watering £5.8million last year, followed by the University of Durham.

Student Priorities

So, after budgets were cut by the government and tuition fees increased, should artwork remain a priority for universities? Unison, the public service union which is responsible for the working rights of university lecturers, criticised the spending by saying universities were choosing “style over substance.”

A spokesperson said: “Unison is appalled that universities can think about investing £20m in works of art when a significant number of institutions still pay their employees significantly less than the living wage,”

“Universities must be more accountable on how they spend their money. The huge amount going on works of art suggests that during these austere times, universities are choosing style over substance. As nice as they might be to look at, paintings, statues and sculptures don’t enhance teaching, and leave the lowest paid staff on campus unable to have a decent standard of living.”

Highest costs

The University of Oxford spent £7.9million on a single painting, of which £5.9m was from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £850,000 from the Art Fund. It’s housed in an area which is free to the public, but does bring into question the priorities of top universities which continue to see  increasing student tuition fees and additional costs.

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