Royal Academy of Music: Fees will be due in the usual way

Royal Academy of Music: Fees will be due in the usual way


norman lebrecht

March 30, 2020

This message has gone out to students from the principal of the Royal Academy of Music, in London.

Dear All,
The COVID-19 emergency is causing financial hardship for millions of people in this country
and elsewhere, students included. I, along with other UK University leaders, will be talking
with government about possible fee support measures, but I do not expect these
discussions to reach a conclusion for some time. In the meantime, a number of you are
asking about fees for next term.
Along with the Principals of our sister Royal conservatoires, I’m writing to you to outline our
position. Like almost all conservatories and universities around the world we are making the
transition to digital learning because we believe this is the best way of ensuring continuity in
your studies. While this does create new challenges (and all of us are on a learning curve), I
am enormously grateful to teaching colleagues and students for the positive way you have
embarked upon this.
The reality is that ‘on-line’ teaching costs the same as ‘in-person’ teaching, along with
almost all the activities and support provided for students’ learning. This covers those
aspects within the credited curriculum and those beyond it, such as the library, counselling
services and other student services and pastoral and academic support, plus all our essential
professional support services, like Registry, IT, Finance, Communications and HR.
All these departments are functioning as before, even if staff members are having to work
from home, and some are actually carrying additional costs to support the required
work. All are working extraordinarily hard and with dedication to make sure that the
forthcoming period of study is the best it can possibly be, in these highly unusual times. We
are also planning ahead for when we can return to the Academy’s buildings, and with plenty
of projects to make up for lost time.

All of us wish we could be in different circumstances, delivering our learning and teaching in
the way we do normally, in the learning and teaching spaces we love. But we can’t and, like
all conservatories everywhere in the world, we must operate digitally. We will do this the
best we possibly can and defer only those elements of the curriculum we must. The Registry
will be writing to you later today regarding all aspects of assessment in the coming period.
For those students who pay by instalment, fees will be due in the usual way. We ask as
many of you as possible to pay on time, to make sure that the Academy can continue with
its work. It is only with tuition fees that the Academy can continue to operate. If you will
struggle to be able to pay your fees on time and need to revise your instalment plan, please
contact and we will help reschedule your fees.

We recognise that some students will have been relying on concerts, teaching and other
work, both to pay their fees and to cover their living costs, and most of this work will have
been cancelled. This is a reminder about the increased hardship fund that we have put in
place – please email […] for an application form. We know that
some of you who live in various different types of student accommodation have had to
return home. We will be contacting you shortly to clarify arrangements and help where we can.

To be resilient and withstand this crisis we rely on the commitment of our wonderful staff
and our incredibly talented students, who display all the best qualities of our communities:
flexibility, teamwork, creativity and innovation in all circumstances. We need the Academy
to be resilient – for you and for the future of the arts.

Coming full circle from my opening paragraph, the Minister of State for Universities has told
us that the UK Government is looking at all potential avenues for supporting students
through this challenging time. In light of the government’s recent announcements about
helping employees and self-employed workers, we hope that a package to help students will
follow. We will welcome any such move from the British Government, and will update you
as soon as we have news about this.
All best wishes,
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, Principal



  • John Borstlap says:

    This looks as a clever piece of sophistry to protect the budget and staff, on the expense of the students.

    • Tamino says:

      You clearly have no idea what it takes to move teaching to online platforms in a meaningful way.

      Also: what are your executable and damage limiting suggestions?
      Talking about sophistry…

  • Anon says:

    I just deplore the privatisation of further education.

    Here’s the result – a heartless, money grabbing letter.

    In all these situations, a weak point is always identified. Someone always pays – here, it will be the students.

    They’re the weak point as enough of them will have funds in place anyway, and will want to stay on good terms with their colleges.

    Please, though, consider the poorer students (as I was) and the effect this will have on their education and the rest of their lives.

    Why is this even necessary? All staff, salaried or self employed, are being looked after by the government so surely there is a moral duty to stop taking money from young students?

  • DAVID says:

    If I were in these students’ shoes nowadays, I would strongly consider putting my degree on hold for a while and seek private instruction at probably a tiny fraction of the cost. There are probably many private teachers in London — all over the world, in fact — currently offering remote teaching for a much more affordable price than the cost of tuition at one of these schools where unnecessary fees are charged for things one often doesn’t even use. Remember, if you plan for a career in an orchestra, as a soloist, or as a chamber musician, that no one cares on audition panels where you studied. In fact they don’t even know where you studied: they only know you by a number, playing more often than not behind a screen. They only care about one thing: how well you play. It doesn’t matter one bit where your degree came from — in fact it doesn’t even matter if you have a degree altogether. I would think if you are planning a career in teaching, a degree might be more of a requirement, but I’m not sure what the world will look like after this difficult time ends. Focus on your playing, find a good teacher twice a month online and keep motivated — the last part might actually be the biggest challenge right now. And, if you can, acquire non-musical skills that may be very helpful to have in the new world awaiting us.

    • Bill says:

      Not entirely true that no one cares where you studied. They all want a resume with your application, and you’ll frequently see language like “the orchestra reserves the right to reject any applicants not meeting the highest standards.”

      • DAVID says:

        The highest standards are often determined in the first 30 seconds of your audition, not by looking at a resume. That’s really all one needs in order to gauge what kind of player they are hearing. Having studied with a recognized teacher, even privately, may make a small difference on one’s resume, but even then it’s your playing that really matters, not who or where you might have studied with. It may not be glamorous to say so, but the harsh reality of the music profession is that degrees are mostly worthless unless you want to go into teaching, and it remains to be seen what kind of teaching opportunities will be left after this. There are tons of musicians graduating from music schools who will either never get a regular job in music or will somehow muster enough entrepreneurship skills in order to create their own opportunities, and no one will care then where they might have graduated. It was already an incredibly difficult and saturated field before, I shudder to imagine what the music profession will look like a couple of years from now. I encourage young musicians to seriously consider acquiring non-musical skills that may remain marketable in any economic environment. Being a musician, except for a very few who are extraordinarily talented, is going to become an extremely precarious proposition.

        • Anon says:

          David is so right here – the number of colleagues I meet in orchestras who’ve done exceedingly well despite not coming through one of the Royal colleges or equivalent is substantial.

          There are many successful musicians with either academic degrees, or music degrees from some of the minor conservatories.

      • Christopher Clift says:

        Having been the subject of audition panels during the last 40 years, and having sat ON audition panels as part of my job, I can assure Bill that if you can perform (play or sing in the case of musicians) that is all most audition panels listen for – they really DON’T give much credence to what paperwork you may or may not have.

        • Bill says:

          If you don’t get a chance to play, it doesn’t matter how well you might play. Plenty of friends have gotten the brush off based on resume alone, so you won’t convince me that it doesn’t happen. Perhaps the applicants were eliminated before you even saw them. I am pleased to hear that it may not be a universal practice!

          • Saxon Broken says:

            There are so many applicants these days that it is impossible to give them all the opportunity to play at an audition. The selection of who plays at the audition has to be made on the basis of the cv (and whatever else is included in the application).

  • V.Lind says:

    They’re not able to provide what the students signed up for. So I fail to see why the students should be paying full freight.

  • Susan Dyer says:

    The missive of the Principal of The Royal Academy of Music is an inappropriate and inadequate response to an international catastrophe.

    The Royal Academy is a wealthy institution with £171m of Reserves indicated in its latest published Accounts. It also made a surplus of £13m in the same Accounts.

    A term’s tuition fees are approximately £4m, which would make a minor dent in the Reserves (reason why companies/institutions have Reserves). But the shortfall could be offset by using the Chancellor’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the non-public funding element of staffing cost.

    The Principal protesteth too much – now is the time to show empathy, understanding and compassion.

    • Peter says:

      Well not quite. Financial statements are tricky to understand.
      The RAM balance sheet has £171mln, most of which is its land, buildings, equipment, instruments, and historic musical instrument collections etc. Much of the rest is invested donations e.g. to pay for scholarships and teaching posts.
      The income statement shows a surplus of £13mln, but that includes about £14mln of donations this year.
      It’s actual income from teaching etc was £19 min, and its staff and operating costs were £22 min. So really it made an operating loss of £3mln, offset partly by income from previous donations which have been invested to contribute to its work.

      The current crisis is really difficult for most institutions, and I think those in education are trying their best to keep going, like the rest of us. Alternative is to turn the students away and sack the teachers. Would anyone benefit from that ? And would Slipped Disc readers have something to say on that also ?

    • Mark says:


      An employer can only use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to (partially) fund furloughed workers, i.e. those who have no work to do for a given period and hence are at risk of redundancy. If RAM are planning to continue their teaching programme online there aren’t likely to be many of those.

  • angie_2020 says:

    This is really disappointing to read. The Royal Academy seems to be more interested in money rather than in the students…

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    Fie upon them !! Fie, for shame !!

  • Terence says:

    I agree that it seems harsh but put it in perspective for a four year degree:

    You may have online teaching for three to four months this year ; it’s only a problem if this continues way beyond September.

    As to whether a music degree from RCM, RAM or Juilliard etc. is worthwhile … there’s no simple answer. Each student must evaluate that for themselves (with assistance I would hope).

    • Lulu says:

      What about in the perspective of a 1 year masters student paying £25k??? The RAM is suggesting final recitals by Skype or home video so students “graduate as soon as possible” no word about catching up on classes, lectures, coachings, rehearsals, recording opportunities, etc etc. The reality is a conservatoire cannot feasibly go on-line and the RAM can afford to take some of the financial hit but they’re more concerned about their finances than student welfare.

      • SVM says:

        Exactly. If it were me, I would prefer to delay my graduation so that I got all the in-person teaching, in-person assessment, and other opportunities I would have got had there been no pandemic. I would, moreover, expect that such a deferral should not result in an increased tuition fee. I imagine that many students currently studying at a conservatoire would feel the same way, especially at a time when the job-market itself is so uncertain. Online learning is better than nothing, but is not a wholly adequate substitute — for example, it is impossible to get experience of orchestral playing.

        • DAVID says:

          In many countries, the experience of orchestral playing is something that is expected to be learned on the spot, as each orchestra has its own style and personality.
          A “blank slate” is actually preferred in many cases over an already experienced player, because the new player can more easily be shaped according to a particular orchestra’s expectations. Orchestra playing as practiced in schools can be useful, but only to a very limited extent. There is always a leap to be crossed when being thrown into professional orchestra playing for the first time, and those who are talented will adapt fairly quickly. Also, it can be very useful to study with an actual member of the orchestra one is applying to in order to be imbued with their specific style and become acquainted with their particular expectations. For all these reasons, many European orchestras only require in auditions a couple of concertos (this is for violin), usually a Mozart and a Romantic, and lately the list has been narrowed down to specific concertos, as a player’s caliber can be very well gauged by how well they can play, for instance, the Brahms concerto. The level of playing is the only thing that matters. A great player, despite what many people might object to, can learn what it takes to play in a great orchestra fairly quickly. An orchestra comprised of more conventional players whose breadth is confined to playing orchestral parts and excerpts in a correct manner will often sound rather uninteresting. This very difference is what separates the truly great orchestras from the rest. In order to get there, you don’t need to follow a school curriculum — you need to bring your playing to a highly competitive level. Let’s not forget that when 300 people compete for an orchestra position and 250 are dismissed in the first round, these 250 are most likely graduates from one of these many schools, and the winner might actually be the outlier who happened to be coached by a very good teacher, who in many cases might be someone fairly unknown and not belonging to the small circle of star professors who often run student mills. It’s definitely very competitive out there, and there are no magic bullets. People who are seeking to find professional employment need to understand this reality and focus on bringing their playing to the highest level possible — that’s what it takes nowadays.

          • V.Lind says:

            Could you please learn to paragraph so it is possible to read your posts without going spare? The above reminds me of Autumn of a Patriarch.

            And a rule of thumb also is that sentences should not exceed 30 words. I’ve just slugged through one that has 93.

            I do hate it when people email me in text-speak — incomplete sentences, etc. I like fully-formed thoughts and expressions. But a review of a sentence can usually indicate where it could be broken. As a fan of the subordinate clause myself, I have frequently had to rein myself in. But years as a journalist and then an editor made me see the sense of it.

            Your posts are worth reading, but you can make it less of a slog…

      • Peter says:

        Let’s say current students suspend till after COVID. They will have living costs while they resume their course. Next year there will be no space to allow a new intake, so next years students will be turned away. They will lose a whole year.
        How will this be a better outcome ?