Music faculty is shrunk ‘because architecture makes more money’

Music faculty is shrunk ‘because architecture makes more money’


norman lebrecht

March 22, 2018

The dean of New Zealand’s Auckland University has told members of the music department that jobs will have to go because they are being ‘subsidised by architecture.’

Five posts are to be abolished.

Grim details here.

This is a global issue: universities are increasingly run by bureaucrats with no feel for the humanities.


  • Alexander says:

    judging from that foggy and half-veiled “Secret Doctrine” the humanities are the score for humans as beings, maths and others are applicable and subsequently on the background … this is for the ideal society, so because our society is not ideal we’ve got what we have got … some, like Ken Robinson, stand for creativity ( typical humanitarian subject) as a ground for progress , others stand for the material factor which pleases their souls more …

  • John Rook says:

    Similarly, Lancaster University has no more music department. Apparently, nuclear physics is preferable.

  • David R Osborne says:

    LaTrobe Uni in Melbourne got rid of theirs years ago. Given the massive oversupply of both instrumentalists who most likely struggle to find work and drift back to teaching (thus helping to perpetuate the over-supply), and trained composers who at best have had any originality they may once have possessed drilled out of them, what on earth do you expect?

    Sorry guys I have friends teaching in academic positions. It’s not easy, but this is what happens when leaders acting purely out of self-interest, resist the need for change. Won’t even talk about it. The rise of the tertiary education sector to it’s current position of dominance within the art-form has run directly parallel with the art-form’s decline. This is no coincidence, and now the wheels are falling off.

    Spending on tertiary level music education should be redirected to grass roots and community based music making, and the funding of music appreciation programs for early school age children. Before it’s too late.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Architecture study might be more useful for job-seeking students also, although it doesn’t sound like that was part of the calculation.

    • David R Osborne says:

      It’s a strange comparison though. Architecture is another field where it’s really tough getting a job. People who seek financial security should really study to become accountants,

  • Fatz Knpfwrm says:

    David R, comments such as your last statement reflect the current state of society. From the moment of getting up in the morning til bedtime, it’s all about making money, nothing else. And while you are doing this, others are trying to get money out of you. No wonder we have so many sick people on this planet.

  • Marg says:

    Unfortunately Auckland is following the move globally to structure universities on neoliberal business models.

    • David R Osborne says:

      Neoliberalism is the problem? The classical music system is the perfect neoliberal construct. Feed the privileged few at the top end and trust them not to act out of self interest. Rely on a ‘trickle down effect’ not just of resources but also ideas.

  • Bill says:

    They don’t realize how important music education is to architecture: after all, to quote Goethe, Architecture is frozen music.

    Could it mean they are freezing the funds for music in order to create architecture?

    All kidding aside, all architects should be required to study music!

  • Cyril Blair says:

    It’s happening everywhere. The University of Wisconsin (Stevens Point), a state school, is planning to discontinue all their humanities programs including:

    • American Studies
    • Art – Graphic Design will continue as a distinct major
    • English – English for teacher certification will continue
    • French
    • Geography
    • Geoscience
    • German
    • History – Social Science for teacher certification will continue
    • Music Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Sociology — Social Work major will continue
    • Spanish

    and add majors with “clear career pathways” like

    • Aquaculture/Aquaponics
    • Captive Wildlife
    • Ecosystem Design and Remediation
    • Environmental Engineering
    • Geographic Information Science
    • Master of Business Administration
    • Master of Natural Resources
    • Doctor of Physical Therapy

    This is after the Republican Governor, Scott Walker (a college dropout), tried to remove from the state’s code “words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replace them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

  • Sharon says:

    I agree with Holmen. Many universities want to maximize the amount of money they can obtain from private firms who want to fund research and development projects cheaply through universities. In fact, tenure at various university science departments is based at least partially on how much money a professor can bring to the university in research grants and funding from the private sector I know that although there are some organizations that do fund various aspects of music research the money they provide is peanuts in comparison to the money that can be obtained from say, a big pharma company, with the expectation that the company can patent whatever the university researchers discover

  • David R Osborne says:

    To everyone, don’t look at this as an attack on music. It is the inevitable end-game for a power base that has failed the art-form it is supposed to serve. Ultimately we should be excited that unique talents who were ‘of no use’ to the system may perhaps now have more opportunity to shine.

    Has to also be mentioned that we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Melbourne is currently putting up another shiny piece of infrastructure in the heart of the city’s arts ghetto. That would be the new $105 million Melbourne Conservatorium.

  • Mr Getreal says:

    New Zealand does not matter when it comes to classical music.
    Their music departments are mostly geared already towards anything but classical music, they have just one full time symphony orchestra of medium quality and that’s it.
    NZ is a sport obsessed nation, with a neoliberal political system in place ( very low wages, very high prices, one of the highest levels of child poverty in the first world ), so why are we all surprised that the humanities are being disestablished ?
    In a neoliberal society there is no need for such subjects any longer.
    What really matters : the economy and a decent return for the shareholders.

    • David R Osborne says:

      Oh come on Mr Real, New Zealand is not just sport. It gave us Flying Nun records and the Dunedin sound- wonderfully original indi-pop with fans all over the planet. Not to mention FOTC. And I also like the way they’re all really short with hairy feet and live in holes in the ground.

  • Gloria Jeans says:

    The only sensible point to derive from this sad development is that the university system, run by neoliberal business principals (very much so in New Zealand) is failing to provide tertiary education for classical music performance by sacking its top educators. Western Art Music Performance and Academics are a mutually exclusive! Therefore New Zealand needs its first Music Conservatory / Music Academy / Music University / Music College / Hochschule, modelled on the European tertiary schools for classical music Performance. In the meantime we, students of classical music in New Zealand will continue going overseas to pursue careers as classical musicians and nurture our love for this music. After the tumults in Dunedin, Hamilton and now Auckland there is a deep distrust in our system and a bitter taste that we’ve been left behind without opportunities for our talents, without understanding for our culture. Is that cultural diversity, inclusiveness? Take from the ones to give to the others? Fortunately Australia is not too far…

    • David R Osborne says:

      Or perhaps the sensible point could be that the University model of music education teaches a curriculum the chief purpose of which is to secure the jobs of its teachers. Or that classical music as a whole has endured a century long creative crisis in no small part the product of that very education system.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        You keep making the claim the academia is to blame for the failure of new pieces to enter the mainstream repertoire. But here are some things to consider.

        How should we pay for composers and new pieces of music? Can any classical composers really make a decent living from commissions or performance royalties? If not, they have to compose as a sideline to some other activity (performing or teaching). University posts are really the equivalent to having a rich benefactor subsiding their lifestyle while they compose. And funding composers this way means many more composers are producing music than would otherwise be the case.

        • David R Osborne says:

          Yes, really apart from missing the point of what I’m saying, you’ve also just reinforced it. Truly great composers are incredibly rare, because to put it bluntly, the essential skill is unteachable. They may even have been rendered extinct by the fact that as rare, gifted individuals, they are an inconvenience and of absolutely ‘no use’ to the system as a whole.

          The reality is that there are far too many people wanting to compose music today and the reason for this is by and large has been the need to give graduated composition students something to do for a living. That is of course, not so much composing, but teaching. That requires two things, something for them to actually teach, and a steady stream of new students.

          So a whole pseudo-science has developed around this requirement, coupled with the false historical narrative required to justify it. And around we go again.

          Music’s only definable value is as a service to audiences, and yet the rise of academicism and the academic imperative has recast the very reason for the art-form to exist. That reason has instead become the need to sustain a system fed by public money, that has minimal accountability to the public that sustains it. We end up with a creative crisis, but one in which there is absolutely no incentive for those who make the decisions to do anything about.