Image showing The Clock House: Home to Music and Music Technology on campus.

Keele University has confirmed that “market trends” are to blame in their decision to end all Music and Music Technology degree programmes, saying they are “No longer sustainable at Keele.”

The university has guaranteed that students currently enrolled in a Music and Music Technology degree will be fully supported until graduation in 2023.

Since the initial announcement made to staff last month, over five thousand people have signed an online petition set up by Music and Music Technology Department staff against the proposals set out by university management.

As well as this, a separate campaign, run by current Keele University students called “Save Keele Music” has urged the university management to think again, alluding to the impact the decision could have on the cultural sustainability within the university and the surrounding area of North Staffordshire.

“Devastating”

The total full-time intake for all taught undergraduate programmes in Music and Music Technology courses at Keele University has fallen from 47 in 2014/15 to 14 students in 2020/21 – a figure the university was keen to highlight.

The Founders of ‘Save Keele Music’ told us that they were “deeply upset by the misleading figures” and said, “As stated by staff on the Change.org petition, we have almost 70 undergraduate students in our cohort and approximately 60 elective students.”

Further, they went onto say “Keele Music provides students across the West Midlands and beyond with the opportunity to study music in a beautiful location, with amazing staff and a well-structured, customisable course. It would be such a shame to see it go.”

Music and Music Technology staff have said the university’s intention to close the department is “devastating news.” They have explained their frustration with faculty management, accusing them of, “blocking attempts by staff to allow the implementation of new programmes,” leading to a lack of development within the department.

On Friday, Keele SU’s Education officer, Mari Chappell, addressed students’ concerns with the plans in a blog post on the SU website. She criticised how the announcement was announced to students and called for clarification from university management regarding whether the university would support current foundation year students set to graduate in 2024. She also said the decision was a result of a “broader problem than Keele.”

Trends of Decline

The announcement from Keele University follows a number of universities choosing to end music programmes in the last fifteen years and decades of underfunding for Music and performing arts education nationally.

Further, music education in schools is facing an “unprecedented crisis” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 68% of primary school and 39% of secondary school teachers stating that music provision is being reduced, according to a report published by the Incorporated Society of Musicians this month.

Campaigners hope that Keele University may find another solution. Still, it is in no doubt that decades of underfunding in the arts from central government and the financial burden for universities nationally left after the Coronavirus pandemic may sadly confirm the decision to close the department.

We asked Keele University to comment further; however, they did not respond. The university has stated they will provide more details about a period of consultation in the new year.