The University of Adelaide says State Government funding cuts have forced it to cut all its vocational music courses in 2015.
Students from lower socio-economic-status schools have traditionally used the courses as a pathway into South Australia’s most prestigious tertiary music school.
However, the Certificate III, Certificate IV and Diploma of Music will be scrapped from the Elder Conservatorium program next year.
“As a result of State Government funding cuts, Vocational Education and Training courses in music will not be offered in 2015,” a university spokesperson told InDaily.
“We are currently looking at different pathway options for students.
“We are, however, continuing to strengthening areas of performance excellence and, after national searches, three new staff positions have just been filled.”
Around 80 students are enrolled in vocational music courses at the university.
Since 2012, the government has been giving the university a “Skills for All” subsidy to deliver the courses, as well as extra, temporary funding.
Higher Education Minister Gail Gago said the additional funding would no longer be offered in 2015.
Neither the minister nor the university would reveal the quantity of either funding pool, or which pool was the most significant.
“The University of Adelaide has made a business decision not to offer the three music courses (Certificate III in Music, Certificate IV in Music and Diploma of Music) in 2015 through Skills for All,” Gago said in a statement.
“However, the music pathway is still available through Skills for All and students can attend TAFE SA, which offers all three of those courses and has also agreed to deliver jazz music options that had been offered at the university.”
The university has also shortened the current semester by two weeks for many music students, citing budget difficulties at the Conservatorium.
This has angered students, who say they will have to pay for a full semester’s study despite receiving only 10 teaching weeks.
A petition is circulating at the university demanding that the Conservatorium communicate with students about the changes.
“We request clarification from the Elder Conservatorium director Carl Crossin regarding the legality of changing the number of lectures offered half way through year long courses,” the petition reads.
“We also feel that the total lack of communication from faculty and school heads to students regarding this matter is totally unacceptable and respectfully request than an email be sent ASAP to each student affected by these changes.”
A representative for Crossin told InDaily he would not comment on “internal matters”.
A spokesperson for the university would not say who had made the decision to truncate the semester, but confirmed that “a very small number of casual staff” have had their pay and hours reduced because of budget problems at the Conservatorium.
Teaching staff have already adapted their courses to respond to the loss of two weeks’ teaching time.
Jazz Department student representative Jim Glaister will meet with Crossin next week to discuss the changes.
“The students feel that they have been kept in the dark regarding these recent changes,” Glaister said.
“We arrived on the first day of semester to find that the number of lectures offered had been changed from 12 to 10 and that VET courses would not be offered next year.
“… the student body is entitled to know how these changes will affect the Con moving forward and what led to these changes occurring in the first place.
“We will also be seeking clarification as to the relationship between the number of lectures offered and funding contracts.
“Music education has taken a big hit lately with the closure of the music department of Noarlunga TAFE, and this is just another blow to the quality of music education in Adelaide.”
As of January this year, students could no longer enrol for music courses at Noarlunga TAFE. The VET courses will instead be delivered 50km north, at the Salisbury TAFE campus.
Glaister said prospective students from the southern suburbs from lower socio-economic backgrounds were often unable to afford the transport costs associated with getting to the Salisbury campus.
He said Adelaide’s live music scene would suffer if bridging courses into the Conservatorium were not replaced.
“The music scene in Adelaide has improved a lot in recent years,” he said. “You can go out virtually every night and see top-quality bands playing a variety of music at some fantastic venues.
“A lot of these bands contain graduates from the Con, and if funding is continually withdrawn from the arts and musical education, I fear we will see a decline in quality music being performed by up-and-coming musicians around town.”