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ANU reaffirms cuts to music

Staff and students at the Australian National University School of Music have vowed to ramp up industrial and community opposition to fight vice-chancellor Ian Young's savage staff and budget cuts.

Professor Young vowed yesterday he would not back away from a $1.5 million-a-year budget cut and 13 job losses at the school, despite overwhelmingly negative community and university feedback during the consultation period.

Over the past month, more than 25,000 people signed a petition calling on him to abandon his proposed cuts.

Professor Young said the school would replace its conservatorium structure with an academic music course, but conceded the negative publicity surrounding the changes could cause it to lose enrolments for the next three years and the ANU could have to pay up to $3 million in redundancy payments.

Addressing hostile staff yesterday morning, Professor Young said his decision was necessary to put the school on a more sustainable financial footing - and his decision was final.

The ANU subsidises School of Music losses of up to $2.9 million a year and would continue to provide $1.4 million in support.

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The National Tertiary Education Union said staff would seek intervention through Fair Work Australia, would declare a bargaining period and a mass meeting will be held on Monday week.

Both the union and School of Music students yesterday called into question Professor Young's ability to lead the national university.

The Union's ACT division secretary, Stephen Darwin, described the consultation period as a sham.

''As was pointed out by so many students, staff and community members in the consultation process, these cuts will comprehensively undermine the high quality learning offered by the school and will rob the ANU and the Canberra community of prestigious musical teaching talent and students,'' Mr Darwin said.

''The university has failed to justify these cuts, and has demonstrated incredible disrespect to School of Music staff and students.''

He said ANU management had failed to provide any business plan or university-level scrutiny for its proposal and ''Professor Young's obsession with producing an enormous surplus could now cost the ANU and the Canberra community the internationally renowned cultural asset of the School of Music''.

Staff representative, associate professor and world-renowned harpist Alice Giles said staff were unanimous in rejecting Professor Young's plan, which would mean the school was ''no longer a world-class performance institution''.

Performance teachers would leave Canberra if they were not valued by the university, and the impact would flow on to the community, she warned.

Canberra Symphony Orchestra chief executive Henry Laska expressed dismay that Professor Young had chosen not to accept the outpouring of support for the school and its place at the musical heart of the city. He also accused Professor Young of misrepresenting the extent of the connections between the school and the orchestra.

While Professor Young said that only four School of Music staff played with the orchestra - adding that ''so even if all those staff … left Canberra I don't believe that impact would be significant'', Mr Laska said the number was closer to 10 when including sessional teachers who had had their positions downgraded in the last lot of budget cuts.

He said the board of the CSO would meet to discuss the full ramifications of the cuts, including having to bring performers from interstate or downsize orchestral performances.

''At lease 85 per cent of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra have a connection to the school of music as teachers, alumni, or current students,'' he said.

Professor Young said performance would still be a strong feature of the new course with a new single bachelor of music degree offering two streams: music performance and music inquiry.

''Students will undertake a major in one stream and a minor in the other. Entry to the performance major will be via audition, ensuring a high level of performance skills. Entry to the inquiry major will be via year 12 results, widening the pool of students who can access the degree,'' he said.

All performance students would continue to have access to a minimum of one hour a week of one-on-one tuition, as at present. Some was expected to be provided by School of Music staff, but most would be delivered by approved external tutors, with provision for travel outside Canberra if necessary.

The new structure was based on music schools at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard, ''with a 'university' rather than a 'conservatorium' structure''.

But Save the School of Music student organisers described this as shameless name-dropping.

''While those universities are world-renowned for their academic and research achievements, their models for music education are not,'' students said.

The Manhattan School of Music, which has a working relationship with the School of Music had already denounced the cuts.