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Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney 24 years ago, has lost out on funding over a four-year period because of a botched decision by a key government funding body.

The series of errors, made in 2016 by HEFCE (now the Office for Students), has cost the city’s iconic institute some £16 million in potential funding and a further £160,000 for the initial steps of a judicial review.

Responsible for the distribution of funding for higher education to universities, HEFCE failed LIPA at the first stage of the process in 2016. Despite being allowed to proceed to the next stage of the funding process, following a subsequent successful appeal, LIPA discovered all the fund had already been allocated.

Following the adverse second stage decision, HEFCE wrongly advised LIPA that the decision-making process could not be challenged, so LIPA’s only option was to embark upon a Judicial Review process.

The Judicial Review gave LIPA access to key evidence, which revealed HEFCE’s repeatedly flawed decision-making process, which has since also been deemed unfair and unprofessional by a number of independent bodies, including three Liverpool Universities. Faced with this evidence, HEFCE changed the rules to justify its decision.

HEFCE’s decision making process is currently under review by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.  

LIPA’s Lead Patron, Sir Paul McCartney comments, “I helped to bring LIPA into life during very difficult times for Liverpool. It is now a highly respected institution all over the world.  Our funding was recently affected by what to me, and the heads of every university in Liverpool, was a flawed process. 

LIPA is my passion and part of my legacy. It would not be fair to allow injustice to affect its future.  I sincerely hope the Government will correct this error and help us to continue our work successfully into the future.”

Mark Featherstone-Witty, LIPA’s Principal and co-founder, comments: “LIPA has been central to maintaining the level of Liverpool’s cultural output, the prestige of which is the envy of the world. As one of the most respected arts institutions in the world, the funding body’s decision has had a huge impact on, not only the city, but on our country’s cultural output as a whole, let alone ourselves.”

Mistakes are a part of being human … and you should learn from them. So, aside from wanting justice, we want to ensure this doesn’t happen again”.

Mark concludes: “It is unclear what will happen after the Parliamentary Ombudsman reaches a decision. We’d like to recoup the lost funding and be re-admitted to the specialist-funding group we once belonged to. We also hope for an acknowledgement about the impact it has had on our city, our culture and that it was a flawed process.”



LIPA was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 7th June 1996.


ISF - Institute Specific Funding – ISF is a stream of funding for specialist institutions, including many in the performing arts, recognising the high cost of their provision.

HEFCE – The Higher Education Funding Council for England – HEFCE was a non-departmental public body responsible for the distribution of funding for higher education. It ceased to exist as of 1 April 2018, when its duties were divided between the newly created Office for Students and Research England.

OfS – The Office for Students –The OfS is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Education which came into existence on 1 January 2018. It inherited HEFCE's funding responsibilities (aside from those for research).

The Parliamentary Ombudsman - The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is responsible for considering complaints by the public that UK Government departments, public authorities and the National Health Service in England have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service.