‘Global classroom’ as 4 music colleges link up

‘Global classroom’ as 4 music colleges link up


norman lebrecht

April 22, 2021

The Royal College of Music (pic), Manhattan School of Music, Royal Danish Academy of Music and mdw (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna) – have formed an international alliance to share online teaching.

This could be big.

Press release:
The Royal College of Music (London) has joined with the Manhattan School of Music (MSM), the Royal Danish Academy of Music (RDAM), and the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (MDW) to launch the Global Conservatoire, an ambitious digital learning environment that will expand each institutional partner’s course offerings, opening up a new and flexible world of asynchronous courses against a rich cultural backdrop.

This innovative partnership, which launches as a pilot programme in 2021–22 with one course in the autumn term and additional offerings in spring, will bring faculty and students from each of the four institutional partners into an online classroom, cultivating an international exchange of ideas. The programme’s asynchronous design will allow students from four conservatories in three different time zones to work at their own pace, completing courses around busy rehearsal and practice schedules…

The first year or pilot phase will offer eight courses in 2021–22 with the Global Conservatoire’s offer expanding each year during the partnership’s first five years. The resulting courses will provide students with a diverse choice, with offerings equally apportioned among the four partner schools.



  • Larry says:

    Sound like a very exciting venture.

  • fflambeau says:

    This makes sense.

  • Mecky Messer says:

    So the students in Vienna paying €500/semester will get some of the education from Royal College or MSM which charge 10 times more…

    Not that any student will care though.

    The banana republic of the classical “industry” does it again…

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      500 EUR at MDW (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien)? Actually most programs cost nothing (only 20 EUR) semester for the student’s union)

      5000 at RCM? Double it.

      5000 at MSM? Multiply it by 10.

      Don’t forget that MDW and RCM are almost always in the top 10 of music schools in the rankings that are so much liked by SD, and that more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.

      … And, to be honest, I don’t see any benefit for students in this. Perhaps for research degrees, but not for UG and master-level students.

  • SVM says:

    I hope I am wrong, but I fear it sounds like a recipe for relegating classes perceived as ‘unimportant’ to a series of videos, with less scope for interaction than there would have been in an in-person class. This could result in a narrowing of horizons (if students lose the opportunity to explore the topics thoroughly, because the teaching staff are no longer made available to the same extent as they were… I bet that the conservatoires will use this to try and save money on staff costs), and could further marginalise those facets of the curriculum. But, like I say, I hope I am wrong.

    But the biggest question is: what will the language(s) of instruction be? Two of the institutions are in English-speaking countries (UK and USA), one is in a German-speaking country (Austria), and one is in a Danish-speaking country (Denmark). How will the promised “international exchange of ideas” be structured to avoid disadvantaging a significant proportion of participants — it is much harder to engage in high-level academic discussion in a language in which you are not *completely* fluent as an equal peer with those who are completely fluent in said language. And all too often, that language tends to be English. It is shameful that, notwithstanding the laudable talk of so-called “decolonisation”, we are complicit in allowing one particular language to colonise high-level discourse to the extent of its almost having a monopoly.

    Will they rotate between the three languages (so that all participants get participate in their local language for an equitable proportion of the time), and engage real-time translation from humans (robot translations are worse than useless, especially when dealing with a specialist topic)?

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      In Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Sweden… easily 95% of university-level music students can communicate effectively in English (at a B1+/B2 level). The language of instruction is definitely not a problem. I think the problem is the actual necessity of this program

      • SVM says:

        The high standard to which so many people in continental Europe can speak English is remarkable, and makes me ashamed to be British (because most British people make almost no effort to learn and speak other languages). But, based on my experience of attending academic conferences in the UK, I would still argue that many academics and students from continental Europe are not *completely* fluent in English, and therefore struggle to participate in English-language discourse as genuinely equal partners to native English speakers. In the context of a seminar, presentation, or conference paper, such people are at a disadvantage. In my anecdotal experience, they are more likely to present a paper (when required to present in English, that is) by reading word for word from a script, as opposed to presenting /ex tempore/ from some basic prompts/notes, as native English speakers tend to do. In my anecdotal experience, they are less likely to interject spontaneously with brilliant rejoinders or questions. And my anecdotal experience is based on continental Europeans who have visited conferences and events in the UK — in other words, people who are likely to have above-average English-language skills compared to the academics and students who do not visit the UK. Like I say, their English-language skills are still very impressive, and I have had many fulfilling conversations with them, but there is no doubt that these (well educated) non-native-English speakers are at a slight disadvantage compared to (well educated) native-English speakers when in an English-language setting (I say “well educated”, because many of these non-native speakers are better than the average English speaker in UK society as a whole).

        But more fundamentally, is it equitable to expect all business to be conducted in English in the context of an international collaboration where half of the institutions are from countries where English is *not* the local language? To my mind, such an expectation is the quintessence of colonialism, at a time when I thought we were supposed to be getting serious about “decolonisation”…