The Australian National University's School of Music head Professor Adrian Walter has taken an indefinite leave of absence from his job following escalating tensions between university management and staff and students over funding and job cuts at the school.
Last week all 32 permanent academics and staff at the School of Music were told their positions were being spilled as part of a dramatic restructure – with ten positions to be axed.
Staff have been invited to reapply for remaining positions.
The school's focus will also move from professional performance to more vocational and practical teaching with less one-on-one teaching, larger classes and more broad entry requirements.
The school runs at a $2.7 million loss each year, which Vice-Chancellor Ian Young said could no longer afford to be subsidized by the ANU.
A partial subsidy of $1.4 million would continue for the time being.
Professor Walters has been working on a cost-efficient restructure for three years and was under enormous pressure following the announcement last week.
While all permanent and tenured staff positions were spilled, Professor Walters' job was quarantined.
Professor Walters could not be contacted today, but the National Tertiary Education Union his departure was regrettable, sudden and unexpected.
The union's ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin said "the absence of Professor Walter is testament to the enormous pressure that this radical proposal is having on the School of Music more generally".
"It is the NTEU's view that Professor Walter has been placed in an almost impossible situation between the demand of the University Executive for huge cost-cutting and the legitimate expectations of the School of Music staff to preserve the highest levels of teaching and learning quality."
"This development must now demonstrate to the Vice-Chancellor that the time has come to abandon this high cost, low value proposal."
The ANU said "Professor Walter has been under a very considerable quantity of pressure in recent days and months. He has taken leave, with the support of the university."
The Canberra arts community and general public have been incensed by the cuts and a large protest rally will take place at the ANU next week.
Meanwhile the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday passed a motion supporting the school's work, which includes a heavy commitment to community and outreach.
Liberal Arts spokeswoman Vicki Dunne moved a motion for the "Assembly to express its support for the School of Music, its reputation established under its current staffing and course structure, and its contribution to the local, national and international music industries."
It received Government and Greens endorsement.