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Cautious optimism at ANU School of Music

Australian National University music students, friends of the School of Music and the National Tertiary Education Union have all expressed cautious optimism at the review by Andrew Podger into the future of the school.

The former Public Service Commissioner has now opened a new round of consultation on his plans for the school, which include three streams of degree courses, a strong performance element, and a benchmark of 200 undergraduate students in order for the school to become financially sustainable.

Drummer and bachelor of music undergraduate and president of the ANU Music Students Association  Hayden Fritzlaff said students had not yet had the time to fully digest the 44-page report but would be meeting to discuss it this week and would provide further submissions.

"It's early days in our reaction but [Professor Podger] has synthesised a lot of our opinions. We want to make sure we get our views heard."

Mr Fritzlaff said he welcomed the emphasis on performance, an indication that jazz could be accommodated in a smaller array of specialities and the call for university investment to get the school back on its feet.

"A lot of people have made submissions but it is important to do what is best to support the students," he said.

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Friends of the School of Music president Tony Henshaw said his committee would meet to discuss the paper in detail but were encouraged by a number of its suggestions including the elite performance stream.

"He has listened to us and reflected back our ideas," Mr Henshaw said.

The Friends had been keen for Professor Podger to look forward rather than to "dwell on wrongdoing" or analysing the past and were satisfied with his call for a moratorium on past actions.

"Andrew Podger is renowned for his thoughtful and considered approach and in that sense we feel [Vice Chancellor] Brian Schmidt has made a good choice. We look forward to moving forward now." 

But the NTEU said Professor Podger's call for a "moratorium on any action in response to alleged past misdemeanours" should not be placed over the industrial rights of staff.

"A 'moratorium' on actions regarding alleged past misdemeanours is an interesting idea, but it should be noted that staff have industrial rights that cannot be set aside.  We oppose any action that removes such rights," said ACT division secretary Rachael Bahl.

She said the union broadly supported the review.

"The NTEU remains committed to adequate staffing for the school and the programs it offers. Professor Podger notes that some of his proposals would require substantial investment in the staff of the school.  The NTEU suggests that such investment is overdue.  Professor Podger suggests a range of contract arrangements for instrumental instructors. NTEU wants to see ongoing work performed by continuing staff."

The union would also call on the university to confirm that any new staffing arrangements will comply with the Enterprise Agreement.

Professor Podger's paper proposes a number of options, which will now be put to the community for further consultation before he provides a final document in August.