A study from the Student Publication Association (SPA) has revealed that over half of student publications within the United Kingdom are facing closure within the coming twelve months, as universities cite the COVID-19 crisis as a reason for reduced funding.
The budgets – provided by student unions – have seen cuts of around 74% for student publications, according to the study. The SPA has found that of those affected, 79% has had its budget ‘at least halved’. Our own publication, Wessex Scene, has received a budget cut of 80.5% for the 2020-2021 academic year.
As a result, the SPA has found that there is doubt over whether publications can recover from the cuts. 94% fear that ‘funding will never be restored to pre-pandemic levels’. The report claims that current funding has dropped 31% due to the pandemic.
Included in the report were a string of concerns from student publications as a consequence of the budget crisis. These include around 49% claiming that they cannot ‘publish a print newspaper or magazine at the start of the year’, 60% expressing concern that COVID-19 would ‘impact on their publication’s ability to conduct journalism’, and 78% suggesting that ‘they would struggle to attract new members.’
With such extreme cuts, 52% of student publications are fearing that they will have to close within the year as they will not have the resources or members to continue.
The Chair of the SPA for 2019-2020, Owain Evans, who conducted the study, has said:
‘We believe that, without reassurances that funding will be restored as soon as feasible, some publications will inevitably cease to operate. This will leave the future generations of our industry without a space to hone their skills.
As an Association, we’re calling on students’ unions and universities to be open with their student publications, provide the support they need to get through this difficult time, and to commit to restoring funding to pre-pandemic levels. Anything short of that will only lead to a deficit in accountability on our campuses, and a lack of opportunities for the journalists of the future.’