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Overview of Professional Music Training System in Australia Source

• Professor Huib Schippers, Associate Director, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Brisbane • Professor Charles Bodman Rae, Elder Professor, Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide

Latest update

October 2007

In general

The Australian system Australia has 6 states (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia) and 2 territories (Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory). There are specialist music schools in most of these relatively independent political units of the federation (with the exception of the sparsely populated Northern Territory). The oldest, the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide, dates from 1883. The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (now the Faculty of Music of the University of Melbourne) dates from the early 1890s. All the others were established in the twentieth century. Some were embedded within universities from their foundation (e.g., Adelaide and Melbourne). Others were established and funded by a state ministry of education (e.g., the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Queensland Conservatorium). In the early 1990s, all the ‘independent’ music schools were required to merge with a university. The current system, therefore, has the specialist music institutions operating as Faculties or Schools within one the 38 universities. There are also music departments in some universities, which tend to focus more on musicology than on music practice. Australian comparisons with general higher education Because of the current structure, with music institutions embedded within universities, there is no structural separation (and therefore no comparison to be made) between the specialist music sector and the general system of tertiary/higher education. Australian developments in relation to the Bologna Declaration 1999 In 2006 the Australian federal ministry of education (DEST – the Department of Education, Science and Training) announced that it would be encouraging all Australian tertiary institutions to explore ways of achieving compatibility with the structures outlined in the Bologna Declaration. This is a very recent development, and it remains to be seen exactly how the universities (and the music schools within them) will respond to this request for compliance with the Bologna structures. The Australian system aleady has three cycles: Ba, MA and Doctoral, and credit systems that can be mapped on to the European system without much difficulty. The existence of a separate Honours year at the end of the First Cycle may need to be reconsidered. The other major issue is the fact that the Southern Hemisphere has an academic year that does not correspond with the Northern Hemisphere, which will affect mobility with Europe and the US.


Total number of institutions

As in other countries, there are differences between the specialist music institutions that deliver professional music training and those other institutions that have music programs/courses that are not necessarily aligned to the characteristics of the music profession. Identification of the ‘number’ may differ, depending on which of these groups is consulted. From the perspective of the main music institutions, however, the following grouping is currently acknowledged: a) the main music training institutions Sydney Conservatorium of Music (University of Sydney) Queensland Conservatorium of Music (Griffith University, Brisbane/Gold Coast) Victorian College of the Arts, now merged with Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne Elder Conservatorium of Music (University of Adelaide) Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music (University of Tasmania, Hobart) ANU School of Music (Australian National University, Canberra) School of Music, University of Western Australia (Perth)

b) other institutions offering significant music education and training School of Music and Sound, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane School of Music, University of Queensland, Brisbane School of Music, Monash University, Melbourne Newcastle Conservatorium of Music West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Perth Australian Institute of Music, Sydney

c) non-tertiary training institution that does not offer degrees or diplomas Australian National Academy of Music, Melbourne Total number of music students


The total number of tertiary music students in group 2a, above, may be estimated at about 2,850. In addition, some of these institutions have programmes for pre-tertiary students. The total number in group 2b may be estimated at about 1,800. Australian music institutions are funded from the federal government for their degree students (First, Second and Third Cycles). Some institutions also deliver music programmes for pre-tertiary students, and these programmes are generally funded at the local level, by the State government. The federal funding for each music degree student (First Cycle) is currently circa AUD 9,000, gross. In addition, each student pays ‘top-up’ fees to the amount of circa AUD 5,000 per annum (via an interest-free student load system called the Higher Education Contribution Scheme HECS). Thus the


combined gross income for each music degree student is circa AUD14,000 per annum. The gross income for First Cycle music students is paid (by the federal government) to the relevant university. The university then distributes these funds according to its own formula. In most cases the net amount distributed to the music conservatorium or school is between 37% and 45% of the gross figure, per student. The ‘tax’ or levy withheld by the university is viewed as a contribution to infrastructure costs (buildings, maintenance) and central services (central administration, university library, and so forth). The formulae for distributing funds (after central levies) are matters of considerable concern for all the leading music academies in Australia. The system for funding Second Cycle and Third Cycle students is different to the system for First Cycle students. Higher degrees by research (e.g., Master of Music, Doctor of Philosophy) are supported by the Research Training Scheme (RTS) with funds from the federal government. Research students accepted into this scheme are not required to pay fees, and the federal government contributes circa $9,000 per student. The federal government also makes available the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) for research degree candidates who score highly in an annual scholarship ranking exercise (currently circa $19,000 per annum, tax free, to the student). Taught postgraduate degrees (e.g., the Master of Music by coursework) are not funded through the Research Training Scheme. Each university sets its own fees for such programmes of study. The fees for Australian students are currently in the region of $8,000 to $10,000 per annum. The fees for international students are higher (currently in the region of $15,000 per annum). Curricula

The Australian music curricula are not controlled by the State. Australia has two levels of ‘state’ (the federal Commonwealth Government, and the various State Governments). Music curricula are not determined or controlled at either of these levels.

Academic Year

The Australian academic year is divided into two semesters, each containing 12-15 weeks of teaching. It is customary for ‘academic’ courses (such as music theory and music history) to be taught in 12 weeks per semester (24 weeks in total). Some institutions deliver the practical tuition (such as individual lessons) over 15 weeks per semester (30 weeks in total). The Australian academic year begins at the end of February (in the Australian autumn/fall) and ends in November (at the end of the Australian spring).

2-cycle system/ Qualifications

The Australian system does have First Cycle and Second Cycle programmes of study (for example, Bachelor of Music and Master of Music


degrees). But it also has Third Cycle programmes and pre-tertiary programmes. Title of qualifications 1st cycle Bachelor of Music (three years full-time) Bachelor of Music with Honours (one additional year full-time– Year 4) Bachelor of Music Education (four years full-time) Bachelor of Music Studies (three years full-time) Bachelor of Music Studies with Honours (one additional year full-time – Year 4) Entry requirements \for the 1st cycle

Entry to a First Cycle music degree programme involves three things: a) satisfactory performance at an audition (for performers) or an interview (for composers, music technologists). This is usually the primary determinant. b) fulfilment of the general matriculation requirements for entry to university (each state has its own tertiary entrance certificate, and this is broadly equivalent to the German Abitur, the Polish Matura, or the British A levels). This is usually the secondary determinant. The Tertiary Entrance Rank (TER) is calculated out of 100 (or equivalents, like OP 1-25 in Queensland) They are used as the sole criterion for entry to many university degree programmes. For entry to study subjects such as Psychology or Veterinary Science, a score of 99+ is usually required. Many musicians will score highly in the TER/OP and may enter their chosen degree programme with a score in the high 80s or 90s. For a performance-based programme, such as the Bachelor of Music degree, entry would not be granted on achievement of a high TER alone. Auditions are key. c) special entry is available for mature students who may not have completed their school matriculation certificate, usually at the discretion of the Dean

Title of qualifications 2nd cycle Master of Music by coursework (one/two years, full-time) Master of Music by research (two years, full-time) Postgraduate/Graduate Diploma in Music (one year full-time) % of students who continue with 2nd cycle

The Australian system is unusual in having a separate ‘Honours’ level (sometimes called ‘end on’ Honours) between the first and second cycles. The Honours degree is at the undergraduate level and therefore equates with the fourth year of the First Cycle. Of the students who successfully complete a three-year Bachelor degree (e.g., Bachelor of Music), between 30% and 50% are likely to continue to Honours.


The number continuing directly from fourth-year Honours to the Second Cycle is relatively small (on average, across institutions, perhaps 25% of those completing Honours). So, for example, a cohort of 120 completing Year 3 of Bachelor of Music programme may reduce to 60 for the Honours level of the First Cycle, and then 15 for the Second Cycle. Some schools, like Sydney Conservatorium, Queensland Conservatorium and the University of Melbourne, have 4-year pass degrees. It is typical for the Second Cycle also to be taken by musicians who have, since graduating with their first degree, been active in the profession. Such students re-enter the higher education system having gained valuable professional experience, often having travelled extensively. It is also common for students to create a break in their studies, either between the First and Second Cycles, or between Years 3 and 4 of the First Cycle, in order to work and clear the accumulated debt of to-up tuition fees (which will have accrued under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme). Since the Universities have been allowed to raise HECS fees by 25% from the beginning of 2005, the patterns of student enrolment have increasingly been affected/determined by these financial considerations. 3rd cycle

Australian music institutions offer a variety of doctoral degree awards that cover both the first level and the higher level (the latter being equivalent to the European concept of ‘habilitation’). The first Australian doctorate of music (DMus) was awarded in 1902 (by the Elder Conservatorium). The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) began to be awarded in the second half of the twentieth century (but only by those music institutions that were already embedded within research universities). The PhD was for several decades only available for musicological research expressed through the conventional medium of a thesis. Towards the end of the twentieth century several institutions introduced alternative modes of examination for the PhD so that the requirements could be fulfilled by submission of a substantial composition portfolio. Most recently, a few institutions have introduced a first-level doctorate by examination of musical performance (either as a professional doctorate, examined primarily by coursework, or as a research degree). The following doctoral schemes are currently offered: a) Doctor of Philosophy (a first-level research doctorate), by examination of a portfolio of recorded performances, supported by an exegesis; b) Doctor of Philosophy (a first-level research doctorate), by examination of a portfolio of original compositions, supported by an exegesis; c) Doctor of Musical Arts (a first-level ‘professional’ doctorate), by examination of artistic product and clear evidence of a strong research component (guidelines differ between Universities offering this degree)


d) Doctor of Music (the second-level ‘higher doctorate’) by examination of a portfolio of original compositions; e) Doctor of Music (the second-level ‘higher doctorate’) by examination of a collection of published musicological writings; f) Doctor of Music (the second-level ‘higher doctorate’) by examination of either original compositions, or recorded performances, or published writings, or a combination of two or even all three of these categories. Credit points

Australia has no uniform credit point system for First Cycle degree awards. The various kinds of Bachelor’s degrees require the successful completion of a set number of credit points (e.g 24, 40) for each level of study. Thus a three-year (three level) Bachelor of Music degree (without Honours) may represent the successful completion of 72/120 units/credits. The fourth year (the Honours year) will require completion of an additional 24/40 units. Thus the full four-year programme for First Cycle will represent 96/160 units/credits. These units are based on student workload, not contact hours, and can consequently easily be translated into ECTS. Each institution is free to determine how it will structure the units within each year/level of study. The most common pattern is for the 24 units to be made up of 3-unit courses; 40 units is often divided into multiples of 5. Many liberal arts degrees (such as the Bachelor of Arts) comprise four 3unit courses in Semester 1 of the first year (12 units) in a 24 unit system, and another four 3-unit courses in Semester 2 of the first year (12 units). In Year 2 there may be some specialisation, with a ‘major’ carrying 6 units per semester, plus two 3-unit elective courses per semester. In Year 3 some programmes have further specialisation of two 6-unit courses in each semester. The above patterns, while they may work well for some generalist degrees, do not work well for music degrees requiring a strong focus on the principal/major study right from the beginning of the first year. In specialist music programmes (such as the Bachelor of Music degree) it is not unusual for the Principal Study to carry 50% of the units in each semester, from the beginning of year 1. Courses in subjects such as music theory and music history can be structured so that the unit/credit points are awarded at the end of each semester. For practical, performance-based course, however, the separation into semesters is generally considered to be undesirable, because the intensive training needs to be longitudinal, continuous, and developmental. For this reason, music training programmes often have a year-long course in the practical/principal study, supported by semesterised courses in the other subjects.

Quality assurance

There is no requirement in Australia for music degree programmes to be accredited by any organisation outside the university that awards the degree.


Pre-tertiary music programmes, however, do tend to have external accreditation. Some institutions achieve this accreditation (at the pretertiary level) through the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system. Quality assurance is the responsibility of the institution (the university) that awards the degree. Australian universities are now subject to periodic audits of their quality assurance processes by the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA), which operates in a similar manner to the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in the United Kingdom. Major concerns

Major concerns for professional music training in Australia include the following: o

Issues of organisation and funding Over the past 17 years, all conservatoires and other schools for tertiary music education in Australia have become part of Universities (with rare exceptions like the Australian Institute of Music, which is a labelled as a ‘Higher Education Provider’). This ‘arranged marriage’ guaranteed a basic level of continuity and basic funding, but also many issues of compliance, not all of which are considered conducive to the education and training of professional musicians. Some argue a separation would be appropriate. In addition, there is the increasingly inadequate level of net funding per degree student distributed by the universities to the music conservatoria (on average only about 40% of the gross funding provided by the federal government). Government funding is not indexed annually. Connected to this is a rising concern for the plight of the teachers/academics in tertiary music education. Tertiary music education is teaching-intensive, administrative loads are considerable, and demands on community service and research are increasing. In this context, increasing casualisation of teaching is a double-edged sword: while it increases the flexibility of the institution, more workload falls on less continuing staff.


Issues of content and pedagogy Although there is little disagreement of the role of conservatoires as bearers of western art music, there is a continuing discussion on the place of other musical styles, both as part of a curriculum predominantly focused on western classical music, and as curricular focus in their own right. As in many other parts of the world, jazz is pretty well established in Australia, a number of Universities offer degrees in popular music, and music technology is on the rise. Indigenous music is rather marginalised, and various forms of world music are just beginning to be part of the curriculum, often as elective subject in a jazz, pop or classical program. Institutions are seeking the right mixture within their contexts and practical constraints. Partly prompted by this emerging cultural diversity, partly by an awareness of changing learning patterns and new pedagogical insights across the board from educational research, and partly by economic imperatives, conservatoires regularly review their curricula, and occasionally their pedagogical approach. Issues being addressed include (peer) assessment, external examiners, and of course one-on-one teaching and its balance with small group and ensemble teaching (relation to genre). Barring a few


curricula in popular music (e.g. BPM at Griffith, Musical Theatre (WAAPA), Music technology, and Sound (QUT), one-on one teaching is still the norm in most tertiary music training in Australia. With its specific geography, distance leanring is an emerging field of interest in Australia. o

Issues of research Institutions for music education with a strong focus on practical training are searching for an appropriate mix of formats for research and research training. Traditional (historical and analytical) musicology is considered somewhat removed from artistic practice by many. New approaches and formats are being developed to work from the strengths of specialist practitioners, and from emerging technologies. The introduction of a Research Quality Framework (similar to the Research Assessment Exercise in the UK) will, hopefully, recognise non-standard research and research outcomes (such as musical composition and musical performance).


Issues of survival for young musicians Like everywhere in the world, graduate outcomes and graduate destinations are a concern in Australia. With a highly complex and diverse professional field, and frequent major timelags between graduation and various occupations, hard data are difficult to produce. In addition to issues of physical wellbeing / avoiding playing-related injuries are of rising concern, and beginning to be discussed in the open.


Issues of relevance to communities at large Most conservatoires reach out to specific communities as a logical consequence of the nature of their business: they present concerts, recordings and events. The exact nature and breadth of the interaction with various stakeholders around each institute varies considerably, and is the subject of much discussion involving relevance, ‘giving back’, target groups, political and financial support, all balanced by constraints of resources. The need exists for a funding formula that recognises the substantial contributions that the major music institutions make to the musical, artistic and cultural lives of their home states, as well as a need for a federal review of the structure and funding for professional music training at the tertiary level (following on from federal reviews of the major orchestras, and of music in primary and secondary schools). Another concern is the gradual decline (in several states) of instrumental music provision in public high schools which affects the recruitment profile of musicians at tertiary level (i.e., increasingly from independent schools where the parents are able to pay for specialist music tuition).

Australia - Professional Music Training System  

Australian comparisons with general higher education Because of the current structure, with music institutions embedded within universities,...

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