How Relevant Are Foundation Degree’s To The Music Industry (Part 1)

The research I have been doing recently for the Welsh Music Foundation into live music over the last few months has made me think – how relevant and important are Foundation Degree’s to the music industry? This is part of a two-part post, where I will address ‘relevance’ first.

I have written a number of Foundation Degree’s over the last 10 years (For both Bournemouth University and Glamorgan University), and I think the original idea behind these qualifications was theoretically sound. The concept of a qualification reflecting the skill requirements of the music industry is useful, and although Foundation Degree’s have worked well in other sectors, there have always been  factors that prevent this qualification from being relevant for music.

For example, an important ingredient of all FD’s is the work placement. As the qualification is vocational, it makes sense to facilitate practitioners to obtain part of their credit via the work place.The vast majority of institutions teaching FD’s find this difficult with music, something which results in many devising ‘work related assignments’, where students are accessed via ‘real life’ scenarios. Although this is the next best thing, like myself,  many lecturers find it difficult to keep up with current industry practice (How can you do both?). Although it may be easy to organise a work placement to a local builders firm or Tescos (who now have their own FD), it is far more difficult to enable students to work as part of a successful touring act, or a major publisher.

It seems to me that this has resulted in the music industry (whatever that means) generally not relating to the qualification. Having being part of this process over the last 10 years, I recently decided to develop a Foundation Degree that is not aimed at school/college students, but at people already in the industry. This leads me to the 2nd part of my post – how important are qualifications to the music industry.

More on this later ……………………..

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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One Response to How Relevant Are Foundation Degree’s To The Music Industry (Part 1)

  1. richardj.parfitt says:

    The short glib answer to this is not at all, however, I believe you are right to anticipate a significant change in attitude from both the music business and the musician. Brighton Institute of Modern Music have recently announced a partnership with EMI publishing that involves internships, and also have an MA in studio production partnership with Abbey Road. Leona Lewis, Noisettes, Kooks, Kate Nash and Amy Winehouse, Delphic and many others are all graduates from some music course or another, and major label A&R have started scouting popular music degree courses (for the musically talented and gifted business student) in the same way that football scouts trawl for talent. Bath Spa and other universities have placed more than a few grads with industry connections, and these have led to full time positions. Hopefully this will strengthen industry ties and create confidence in popular music education: it seems evident that talented young people will naturally gravitate towards these types of courses (they never existed before) and as such, some of the successes of tomorrow will graduate from the university of today. It is an untruth that bands are no longer getting signed, this is just a convenient reason expounded by those who can’t get signed – the independent sector in particular is thriving (I don’t mean the enthusiast at home recording on a laptop and getting it onto iTunes, but the The Association of Independent Music). Making an FD relevant is the challenge, and you say: ‘many lecturers find it difficult to keep up with current industry practice’, this is the problem I think, because the industry is constantly changing and defined by an anxiety of obsolescence. In this sense, an FD has to look at the classic and ‘eternal truths’ in popular music, while advancing the generation of ideas and creative spirit, which is surely their livelihood.

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