The Australian National University has listed a PhD as a mandatory requirement for academics at the School of Music - making it almost impossible for many existing musical specialists to stay on at the institution.
The requirement has infuriated staff, who are employed under job descriptions which were updated by the ANU's College of Arts and Social Sciences just last year, and which do not require PhD qualifications for School of Music positions.
Under the new job classifications - issued by ANU management this week, the first selection criteria for new academic positions is a PhD.
The National Tertiary Education Union will formally dispute the new criterion saying the ANU was rewriting job descriptions to unreasonably require higher qualifications.
ACT NTEU secretary Stephen Darwin said some lower level administrative duties would be removed on the basis they would be ''automated'' in the future. This was a development the union questioned.
Academics and general staff have been given one week to comment.
Academic positions are being reduced from 24 to 13 and administrative positions are being reduced from 10 to 8 as part of a major structural overhaul to save $1.5 million.
Around 10 internationally acclaimed musicians are taking voluntary redundancies.
Newly appointed director at the School of Music Peter Tregear said yesterday that there may be ''room to move'' on the PhD requirement.
''We look at the PhD as a foundational principle, and an industry-wide and global expectation,'' he said.
Professor Tregear, who has been in the job for just a week, said staff intending to work within the new structure would need to undertake ''research-informed practice''.
''The position descriptions lack a certain subtlety,'' he said. ''I am confident we can negotiate through this … We need to be able to secure the future of a school with excellence in performance teaching at its heart.''
The new School of Music structure will focus on music vocation through teaching and administration, rather than performance - a model ANU management said is no longer financially sustainable.
Mr Darwin said within the discipline of music, it was unusual for performance educators to be expected to have PhDs.
There are a handful of PhD-qualified academics at the school, although these are musicologists and music pedagogues.
Of those performance specialists who have decided to try and stay on under the new school structure, many are astounded by the new formal requirements.
One of the world's most acclaimed harp soloists Alice Giles - who has having given masterclasses in the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Royal Academy in London, - has written to management to express her dismay.
''Up to now I have progressed through the academic promotions rounds without a PhD. This has not been a criteria in my job description and it is unclear to me how I can now be required to hold one to retain my position at the School of Music,'' she said.