ACT News

Andrew Podger appointed to head review of troubled ANU School of Music

Former Public Service Commissioner Andrew Podger​ has been appointed to steer the future of the troubled Australian National University School of Music.

Former Public Service Commissioner Andrew Podger: People desperately want to put the past behind and to identify a clear ...
Former Public Service Commissioner Andrew Podger: People desperately want to put the past behind and to identify a clear vision for the future that can be pursued with passion and enthusiasm." Photo: Sean Davey

Staff and students were informed of the appointment on Tuesday, with Professor Podger to report to new Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt by August after conducting widespread public consultation.

Professor Podger, who holds an honorary position within the ANU's College of Arts and Social Sciences, will identify options to help secure the school's long-term future.

Peter Tregear left the ANU School of Music last year.
Peter Tregear left the ANU School of Music last year. Photo: Melissa Adams

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the consultations would involve discussions with a wide range of interested parties and would be assisted by "eminent music and arts scholars". The terms of reference also include consultation with staff, students, alumni, former staff, friends of the School of Music, ACT and federal government representatives and members of the community.

Professor Podger said he would endeavour to hear from any interested parties who identified themselves.

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The consultations will aim to shape the School of Music's long-term future and its role in the wider community, as well as academic quality, its governance and financial sustainability, Professor Schmidt said.

"As Vice-Chancellor, I have a strong commitment to the ANU School of Music and believe music education plays an essential role in an internationally-renowned university such as ANU," he said.

 "I am committed to making sure the ANU School of Music works well, and that music remains an important part of the culture and community life of ANU."

In an interview with Fairfax Media in January, Professor Schmidt said restoring stability to, and community confidence in, the school was a first order of business under his leadership of the university.

He acknowledged deep levels of unhappiness at the school, which suffered ongoing instability following a savage round of budget and staff cuts in 2012 under previous Vice-Chancellor Ian Young.

Over the past 18 months it has lost a steady stream of acclaimed music academics including its head Peter Tregear mid-last year after he seemingly lost his battle with management for greater resources to support staff and students.

The university has had trouble in securing a new head.

Professor Podger said the appointment of Professor Tregear's successor would probably be made prior to his findings being handed down and he would work closely with the incoming head.

Professor Schmidt said decisions about the future of the School of Music would be made against three clear principles. The school should have international excellence, it should be as relevant as possible to the community, and it must be affordable.

The consultations will be in two stages. The first round of consultations will conclude by late April, with a discussion paper to be released in May. Professor Podger will then hold further consultations before submitting his final recommendations by August.

"I look forward to Professor Podger's consultations and final recommendations," Professor Schmidt said.

"It is my strong ambition to have a reinvigorated School of Music at ANU by 2017."

Professor Podger will be advised by Interim head of the School of Music Associate Professor Royston Gustavson, and expert advisers Emeritus Professor Larry Sitsky, Emeritus Professor John Painter, and Ms Robin Hughes.

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