Over the last few days I’ve done a number of media interviews about the proposed restructure of the School of Music, and answered many questions about the proposed curriculum, how staff and students will be affected and the financial situation of the School.
Below you will find two documents – the text of an opinion piece from The Canberra Times, and a basic fact sheet that addresses some of the questions that have been frequently raised.
A lot has been said and written about the proposed changes to the ANU School of Music over past weeks.
Much of the talk has revealed the passion our students have for their music, for their school and for their teachers, and that is a passion to be celebrated.
Passion has also been on display in the community about the future of our school, and the very important role it plays in Canberra’s cultural life. The over 100 letters and comments that have come to me as part of the consultation process are all written by people who care deeply about music, and the critical role it plays in a rich cultural life. There is no disagreement about that.
What I ask students and staff, and the ACT community to do at this time is to direct that passion towards assisting the University to secure a sustainable educational and financial future for the School of Music. Many good suggestions and ideas have already come in and I welcome all contributions.
Many in the community will know that this is not the first time that the School of Music has faced serious challenges. Restructures in 2004 and 2008 allayed those difficulties for a short time, but they have returned and are even more significant now. Providing even the core curriculum is becoming increasingly difficult, and options must be contemplated now to prevent further decline.
In 2008, the annual deficit for the School of Music was around $1.5 million. That figure now stands at $2.7 million. The University will continue its annual subsidy of $1.4 million, and will shoulder the majority of costs associated with the management of Llewelyn Hall. Any subsidy above that figure means that staff and students in other disciplines – particularly in the arts and social sciences – miss out on educational activities.
To be clear, every dollar that is moved to music is moved away from students and their teachers in disciplines such as the languages, classics and archaeology. Every discipline has a value above money, but staff must be paid, classrooms must be functional, and student equipment must be maintained.
ANU is not alone in struggling with this issue. Other Australian universities are facing the same underfunding problems, and a corrosive cycle of reviews of music programs is doing little to help.
As Vice-Chancellor it is my job to ensure the health of the whole University. I want a School of Music that provides world-class education and results for students. Given the constraints that the School has been working within for some time, it is therefore very pleasing that new approaches to music education have been proposed.
Staff and students have been keenly involved in discussions around change since at least 2010. A wide range of data and research has been considered including different approaches to music education, student outcomes and destinations and feedback, changing uses of technologies and global and national expectations about the nature of bachelor degrees.
The proposed new model includes performance, with a new $600 per semester Professional Development Allowance (PDA) that allows students to buy an hour-long, one-on-one lesson every fortnight. Under this new model students can choose how to spend their PDA, and could opt to attend a summer course, master class or conference, or learn a new piece of music software. The beauty of this model is that the amount awarded to students in the allowance might be increased through external financial support. Indeed, with the right level of support, students might even be able to access more than the 13 hours of lessons per semester they receive under the current curriculum.
The proposed new subject offerings are also designed to appeal to a wider and perhaps different group of students. Streams in music and media technology, the music industry, music education and performance will support graduates in the pursuit of a portfolio of activities. The proposed curriculum will also strengthen opportunities for students who are talented in music, but who have not had access to as many musical experiences because of their economic circumstances or because of where they live.
Connections with the community will also be different and broader under the proposed model, but I believe no less profound. Areas for collaboration will include pre-tertiary music training, school based music and engagement with regional areas. ANU will also provide community access to high quality videoconferencing technology allowing national and international links, and provide artistic leadership and support for local cultural events.
For existing students we guarantee they can finish the degree they started, with arrangements in place to allow completion of subjects, including one-to-one tuition. Sessions for students are being run now to discuss individual circumstances.
The School’s doors will always be open to individuals, businesses, arts organisations and government to explore ways to support and enhance the work of the School of Music and music generally in the ACT community.
I acknowledge that this is a very stressful time for ANU music staff and students.
But I also feel confident that the proposed curriculum captures new and emerging approaches to learning and to the ways students approach careers.
Change is critical at the School of Music to ensure a healthy future – as both an innovative school and as a financially stable and sustainable one.
Why is this proposal being made now?
This is not the first time that the ANU School of Music has faced serious challenges. Restructures in 2004 and 2008 kept those difficulties at bay for a short time, but they have returned and are even more serious now. Providing the curriculum is becoming increasingly difficult, and options must be contemplated now to prevent further decline. The current proposal sketches out a future for music at ANU that aligns with new approaches to learning and with the decisions students make after graduation.
How is the proposed curriculum different?
The proposed curriculum will focus on the education of 21st century music professionals. It aims to develop the higher-order skills that are needed to manage a range of activities, including:
• music education;
• use of music technologies; and
• contribution to music policy.
It will draw on new approaches to learning, including the use of technologies and global partnerships.
The proposed curriculum includes a $600 per semester Professional Development Allowance. With this, students can opt to take individual lessons, attend a master class, or learn a new piece of music software. The model allows for the allowance to be raised if external financial support is secured. Indeed, students might be able to access more than the current 13 hours per semester.
The proposed new subject offerings are also designed to appeal to a wider group of students. In particular, it will strengthen opportunities for students who are talented but who have not had access to as many musical experiences as others because of their economic circumstances or because of where they live.
Will the proposal be affected by the departure of the Head of School?
The period of consultation will continue. This is designed to seek a broad range of feedback concerning music education at ANU. After that period, the University will consider the appropriate way to ensure the future of the School.
What does this mean for existing students?
ANU guarantees that existing students will be able to complete the degree they enrolled in. More information is available at http://cass.anu.edu.au/node/2958.
What does this mean for the pre-tertiary music program?
The ANU pre-tertiary music program is outside the scope of the proposal, and will continue.
What does this mean for staff?
The proposed curriculum requires fewer staff. Subject to the outcome of the consultation period, if the proposed curriculum is implemented a new staffing structure and profile will be required. The University will seek expressions of interest from existing staff for positions in the proposed staffing profile. For staff who are not able to be redeployed to other areas of the University, the redundancy provisions of the University’s enterprise agreement will apply.