Students at Lancaster University are holding an emergency meeting today (Tuesday, March 5) to discuss the future of music and other arts subjects on campus.
It follows a decision by university management to end the study of single and combined honours music, as reported by CM in December. There will be no new intake in September this year.
Campaigners say they are unhappy about the university’s strategy, which they believe has given more support to academic subjects and led to a decline in the numbers of students applying to do music.
The student union website reads ‘the music course was put on a trajectory to fail due to the admissions strategy of the university, as well as reduced funding over a number of years and lack of interest in improving quality’.
But a university spokesperson defended Lancaster’s investment and said in a statement that the performing arts would continue to have a significant presence at Lancaster.
‘Lancaster recognises the importance of music as a discipline to draw on within the wider arts, and is investing in the arts while retaining disciplinary expertise in music. While there will not be a single major degree in music, there will still be teaching in the broad area of music available across arts degrees at Lancaster. A wealth of UK and international artists of the highest calibre come to Lancaster every year in public programmes of professional theatre, dance, exhibitions and concerts. This will continue in the future.’
The remaining music students will be allowed to complete their degrees, although it is unclear yet whether the course will have the same focus as before. Of the seven-strong team, five academic staff are at risk of redundancy and the remaining two will stay on to teach the music students until the current first years graduate in 2015. A third, teaching-only post will also be recruited.
Writing in the student union newspaper, undergraduate Ronnie Rowlands likened this ‘to having a supply teacher covering all of your subjects for the entirety of a stint in sixth form’.
The National Association for Music in Higher Education (NAMHE) has deplored Lancaster’s decision.
‘Music is doing exceptionally well as a HE subject, all doomsayers notwithstanding,’ said NAMHE chair Professor Thomas Schmidt-Beste. ‘The most recent UCAS figures show that in terms of accepted places, music has outperformed both the sector as a whole and virtually all other humanities subjects. In the face of an exceptionally difficult climate for the creative arts, music has bucked the trend and has actually become stronger. It beggars belief that institutions are shutting down departments.’