Music Degree Programs: Next on the Chopping Block?

Canberra is home to the Australian National University, where proposed changes to its School of Music may result in the elimination of more than 30 jobs and put an end to one-on-one musical instruction.(Photo: Rihard Gifford (Flickr))
Canberra is home to the Australian National University, where proposed changes to its School of Music may result in the elimination of more than 30 jobs and put an end to one-on-one musical instruction.(Photo: Rihard Gifford (Flickr))

During the last three years, the world has seen orchestras and opera companies – many in the upper echelon of the profession – fold and come to the brink of collapse. Now a music bachelor’s degree program is on the chopping block.

The Australian National University has proposed changes that would end one of its bachelor of music degree programs and significantly alter the other, eliminating 32 jobs and ending one-on-one music tutelage, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The ABC also reports that the School of Music Foundation Board was not consulted or informed about the proposed cuts before they were announced.

The proposed changes come amid university-wide restructuring. In a blog post, ANU Vice-Chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington says the changes proposed for ANU’s bachelor of music degree program will make that program “more flexible, more connected with the community and offer more student choice.” Students will be able to e receive academic credit for musical contributions in the university’s surrounding community of Canberra and elsewhere, and to use technology to connect with master classes and other experiences at musical institutions around the world.

Hughes-Warrington cited a lack of government funding in addressing the subject of eliminating one-on-one music instruction, arguably the most important aspect of a classical musician’s training:

… government funding does not cover the costs of one to one music tuition, let alone buying instruments or providing appropriate teaching rooms.

Hughes-Warrington also said students will be able to receive a Professional Development Allowance from the university, which they may use to pursue private study and other learning experiences, and can participate in “real-time, video-linked lessons and sessions.”

In preparation for the changes, Hughes-Warrington said all current academic and general staff positions in the ANU School of Music will be “declared vacant,” and current staff will be eligible to apply in advance of outside candidates for positions in the new program.

The the alternative Green Left Weekly reports that a petition against the proposed changes has received more than 12,000 signatures. ANU School of Music students held a 24-hour concert Sunday and Monday in protest of the changes.

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