Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
- In 2009 only 36% of those who took out a maintenance loan from the Student Loan Company also took out a tuition fee loan. By the end of the year this figure had increased, but only to 42%. (Source: Student Loans Company - http://www.slc.co.uk/pdf/slcsfr032010.pdf )
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Saturday, 2 October 2010
I write this article to illustrate what are real problems with the way funding for postgraduate conservatoire study is handed out. My personal experience has shown that often it is an elite minority of students who tend to receive what funding there is. It seems that those awarded funding are often students who have received high quality musical tuition from a young age, and that students who receive funding from one body are likely to receive funding from a variety of sources.
I believe that postgraduate funding should be awarded on a means-tested basis, with only those who have a genuine need of funding being awarded it. Postgraduate courses at conservatoires are now prohibitively expensive, and getting more so, and due to the lack of postgraduate student loans, funding is often the only way students can get access to the education they need. At the moment, there are a multitude of examples of students who have received funding from various funding bodies, in addition to conservatoire scholarships, often exceeding the actual amount needed to pay for their course.
Conservatoires award scholarships to the best students, and these are used as a carrot to lure already high-flying musicians to study at a particular college. Bidding-wars can ensue, with the best students receiving full scholarships. Again, I think this is completely wrong. In my view all conservatoire scholarships should be converted to bursaries, awarded on a means-tested basis. The great thing about conservatoire education is that it levels the playing field for those lucky enough to receive it. This money should be used to ensure that those students with great potential and a less privileged background are able to receive the highest quality musical education. These awards should not be used, as they are at present, to shore up an already privileged economic and educational elite.
I have seen talented musicians from poorer backgrounds unable to receive the additional postgraduate training they need due to lack of funds, and I have also seen students with no undergraduate student debt receive more money than they actually need for their postgraduate course and their accommodation combined.
The MBF kindly sent me the results of a survey they undertook in 2009, assessing the background of students they had funded. There was a 70% response rate to this survey, and I have extracted the following statistics from it:
- 42.6% of respondents received private or specialist music education at secondary level. The national average is 7%.
- 27.5% of respondents did not even take out a student loan for undergraduate study.
- 56% of respondents owe less than the 2007 national average graduate debt of £12,850
- 60% of respondents did not undertake any non-musical work in order to support themselves during their undergraduate course.
- 66% of respondents are receiving additional funding (excluding MBF support) for their studies, with an average additional amount of £5,087, and the highest amount being £16,000
Sadly, these statistics confirm my own personal experience, and in my view illustrate very clearly why there is a real need for an overhaul of the current funding ethos.
These statistics show that the students the MBF have funded are by-and-large not the students who really need funding. 27.5% did not even take out a student loan for undergraduate study, 60% did not need to take a non-musical job to support themselves and 66% are receiving additional funding from elsewhere.
The MBF state that their Postgraduate Performance Awards “are offered to outstandingly talented instrumentalists and singers to help with full-time postgraduate study costs or towards the costs of buying a musical instrument.”
There is no mention of need here, and as their own survey confirms, these “outstandingly talented” students are outstanding because of the education and support they have already received.
Another major postgraduate funding body, the Munster Musical Trust, state the following: “We support postgraduate music students undertaking performance based courses with the aim of having a platform career. To this end we look for students who we believe will have a good chance of making it as a performer.”
Again, no mention of need, and a reference to a “platform career” – in other words, the priority is to fund those students they think are likely to have a high profile in future, not to fund those students who genuinely need financial aid.
Postgraduate fees for the Royal Academy of Music are at present an average of £8,720 per year. The Royal Academy also suggests that living costs for London are around £10,000 for one academic year. This means that the cost of a one-year postgraduate course there will cost just short of £20,000 for one year. The only source of funding available other than scholarships and awards are Career Development Loans, which at present can contribute a maximum of £10,000, and have consequences in terms of interest and repayments. This means students who do not receive funding from a trust or a scholarship have to find an additional £10,000 per year, whilst studying on an intense full-time course.
The consequences of all this are obvious: the current system is geared to furthering those who have already had opportunity and economic support, and hinders those who have not been so lucky – both in terms of future debt, and the time to make the most of the course they are undertaking.
The MBF state that a “funding policy review is currently taking place” – I hope the review sees sense and uproots the unfair, elitist attitude which currently pervades postgraduate conservatoire funding.
“Progression routes of postgraduate musicians / Survey Findings” Musicians Benevolent Fund
Royal Academy of Music Fees - http://www.ram.ac.uk/study/tuitionfees/Pages/default.aspx