David McLennan June 15, 2012
"Expect big things"... Simon Hukin, ANU student and Save the School of Music director, says the fight to save the school isn't over yet, despite the ANU's decision to push ahead with staff and funding cuts. Photo: Rohan Thomson
School of Music staff are gutted at the Australian National University's decision to push ahead with staff and funding cuts and students promise to continue protesting.
Vice Chancellor Ian Young confirmed today that 13 staff would lose their jobs and the university would save $1.5 million a year, saying this would mean the school was viable into the future.
However, it will take two to three years before the changes would be worthwhile, as the university expected redundancy payments of potentially $1-3 million and for a drop in student enrolments over the next couple of years. The university, which faced a widespread community backlash against the initial plan for cuts, will continue to subsidise the course by $1.45 million a year, but would ditch the conservatorium structure.
Professor Young addressed staff this morning and said his latest proposal had taken into account staff, student and community consultation, and was final. He rejected suggestions it would lead to a drop in educational quality.
Staff representative associate professor Alice Giles, the head of the school's harp area, said staff were unanimous in rejecting Professor Young's plan and the school was "no longer a world class performance institution".
"There was no change in the proposal except to say that they value the teaching, one on one, at an hour a week, but actually they don't value the staff that teach it," she said.
"It means that they believe that can continue, if you just give someone some money and they go out and find a teacher. It is not realistic at all; it is neither financially realistic or educationally responsible."
Performance teachers would leave Canberra if they were not valued by the university, and the impact would flow on to the community.
Staff would meet Monday to decide what to do next.
There were several big protests involving music performances when the cuts were first announced, and student Simon Hukin, who is also communications director for Save the School of Music, said they would continue.
"You can definitely expect a repeat. The campaign is just going to kick back into gear, especially at the beginning of next semester. Expect big things," he said.
"The changes they proposed are disreputable and they have obviously not paid any attention to the consultation process. We know that at least 200 of the 700 emails they received were entirely against the changes that were proposed, so if that doesn't send a clear message I don't know what does."
He said it would be more of a public policy institution than a school of music under the proposed changes, and students "forced to engage in courses that have no meaning".
Professor Young said there would be a single Bachelor of Music degree offered, with two streams of study: Music Performance and Music Inquiry.
"Students will undertake a major in one stream and a minor in the other. Entry to the performance major will be via audition, ensuring a high level of performance skills. Entry to the inquiry major will be via Year 12 results, widening the pool of students who can access the degree," he said.
He expected about 50 students to take up performance as a major and 30 as a minor, compared with about 60 at the moment, although conceeded there would likely be a drop in applications in the next couple of years.
"[After that] there should continue to be at least as many students studying performance – and contributing to the musical life of Canberra – as at present," he said.
"All performance students will continue to have access to a minimum of one hour a week of one-on-one tuition, as at present. Some of that is expected to be provided by School of Music staff, but most of it will in future be delivered by approved external tutors, with provision made for travel outside Canberra if necessary."
This travel and tuition could be boosted by philanthropic donations.
The new structure was based on music schools at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard, "with a 'university' rather than a 'conservatorium' structure".
"While retaining a strong performance focus, the overall curriculum will be broader, the staff will be required to be research active, and most one-on-one performance training will be delivered by external professionals – not least because of the extraordinary cost of maintaining in-house expertise across the 30 or more instruments which might be expected to be taught in a traditional conservatorium."
This meant 13 staff – 11 academics and two administrative positions – would lose their jobs, although the university is not going ahead with its initial proposal to spill all positions and make people effectively reapply for their jobs.
The university will look to transfer staff to new areas although some were expected to be made redundant.
Existing students would continue to complete the courses they signed up for, but new enrolments would begin the new course next year.
Professor Young said the changes would have minimal impact on the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, because only about four of the 70 players were ANU staff.
"The provision of music tuition by ANU staff to school children in Canberra is not impacted by the changes. Nor will community access to Llewellyn Hall be in any way affected," he said.