Hey guys, I’m seeing your posts about the proposed closure of Keele’s music course, and I wanted to share what I’ve been doing and know. Firstly, let me be clear that I absolutely hate that this is happening. I’m a humanities student and I hate to see our subject pools diminish year on year.
The university posted this statement.
I’m almost certain that none of you have seen it because it hasn’t been emailed to you or circulated properly. I’m currently pushing for the university to email this out directly, but I’m not yet happy with the wording “We would like to assure all students currently undertaking music degrees at Keele that they will be able to complete them, and will be fully supported through to graduation in 2023” as this doesn’t account for students who take a leave of absence, students currently on foundation years planning to progress onto the music course, or students who might want to study abroad - all of whom would graduate after 2023. I’m currently working to ensure that these students will be supported, and if they cannot be, that suitable alternative plans are in place before the course is officially discontinued, as in my short time in office I have already seen the discontinuation of multiple dual honours options (Astrophysics and Chemistry, and Finance and International Relations) whilst students were still enrolled and students were forced to change their degree titles in their final years.
You’re not wrong, there hasn’t been sufficient (or in some cases any) staff or student consultation as of yet, I am told that is due to come next, but I agree this isn’t good enough and you are right to be angry about it.
However, I also want to take a moment to reflect on broader trends; in 2004 Exeter announced the closure of chemistry and music departments, in 2011 Strathclyde closed Scotland's only applied music degree and UEA announced closing its school of music, in 2015 Lancaster suspended it’s music course and Coventry planned to phase out it’s music degrees by 2018, in 2017 Kent closed its school of Music and Fine Arts, in 2019 the University of South Wales announced closing its dance course, and now in 2020 Keele has announced its plans to do the same.
In England, the tuition fee cap rose in 2004 with the Higher Education Act to £3,000. In 2010 following the Browne Review the cap raised again to £9000. In 2017 linked to the TEF, tuition fees in England rose yet again to £9,250. The closure of these courses aren’t isolated incidents; they're the result of hypermarketising our education, and university being treated as a moneymaker, not a place to learn. In the current climate, courses that can’t recruit won’t be funded. Which, because all courses in England need to be self sustaining (or propped up by other more well recruiting courses), leads to their eventual closure if that stops.
I’m devastated to see this happen at Keele, but it’s a broader problem than Keele. If you’re angry about music you need to be angrier at the root cause - the government’s ongoing commitment to completely defunding higher education and deflecting the increasing cost of university - whether by tuition fees or accommodation fees - onto students.