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ANU School of Music still seeking a head

An international search to find a new head for the Australian National University's School of Music has focused closer to home – with the ANU now putting an ad on Seek.com.

Nearly a year after the sudden departure of former head Professor Peter Tregear – who came to an impasse with management over the resourcing and future direction of the school – the position remains vacant despite an active headhunt.

One international candidate could not be wooed to Australian shores despite being offered the position, and insiders say there is little interest from qualified candidates to take on the job given the full extent of industrial unrest at the school. Meanwhile, Dr Royston Gustavson has been the acting head while the search goes on.

The ANU posted the Seek ad online last week, with some staff and students expressing concern the search is continuing ahead of the final report by Andrew Podger.

Former Public Service Commissioner Professor Podger was commissioned by incoming vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt in February to provide a way forward for the school, which has never recovered from savage budget cuts imposed in 2012 by previous vice-chancellor Ian Young.

An ANU spokesman said on Wednesday "the review by Professor Andrew Podger into the School of Music is progressing and is on schedule. It is expected to be finalised in August".

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Countering concerns that the review should be completed before a new head is appointed, the spokesman said "Professor Podger's review will be finalised before candidates are interviewed for the position of head of the School of Music".

On the decision to place an ad on Seek, he noted "As with all senior appointments of this kind, ANU is advertising both within Australia and overseas to ensure it gets the best possible candidate".

Meanwhile, the Seek ad has prompted some bemusement on campus.

While it cuts and pastes large tracts of the school's vision statement, the ad has a typo.

The original vision statement says: "At its heart, the School affirms an ideal of musical excellence that is ethically informed, generous of spirit, intellectually rigorous, outward looking, responsible, accountable, and receptive to new ideas."

The Seek ad says: "At its heart, the school affirms an ideal of musical excellence that is (sic) ethnically informed, intellectually rigorous, outward looking, and receptive to new ideas."

In his interim options paper delivered last month, Professor Podger said the depth of feeling and emotional stress he had identified at the Australian National University as he reviewed the future of the School of Music had been "striking", and wrongdoing had been identified at all levels of the university.

He has proposed reforming the school's curriculum to include a stream that produces elite national and international musicians, a stream for those seeking academic careers on the development or study of music or those seeking other professional careers in the music industry, and a stream for those just wanting to enhance their music education while pursuing other careers.

Whatever approach is taken, Professor Podger emphasised the importance of retaining a strong performance element, adding that the ANU will need to maintain a benchmark of 200 undergraduate students in order for the school to become financially sustainable. Currently it has fewer than 70.