Royal Holloway Music Department Faces Potential 25% Cut to Staff

Abra Heritage | Editor in Chief

On 21 June, academic staff and students at Royal Holloway, University of London, were informed of proposals from senior management to significantly cut staffing and research provisions. These proposals follow claims from senior management that ‘student numbers no longer support staffing levels’, with a promise that staff cuts will lead to ‘increases in academic posts in disciplines where there are currently higher levels of student interest’. If the proposals, which are due to be submitted to Royal Holloway’s Academic Board on 29th June 2021, are accepted, Royal Holloway’s Music Department will lose 2.5 FTE positions, equivalent to almost 25% of all their staff.

The Music Department at Royal Holloway have strongly contested the college’s plans and reasoning in the job cut proposal, claiming in a recent statement that there is ‘no evidence offered’ for the college’s forecasted loss of income across the next ten years, and arguing that the college ‘have not disclosed their methodology for calculating staff-student ratios’. The department claim that the college’s findings are based on ‘seriously flawed estimates’ because they were ‘conducted at an internal college level, rather than seeking expert knowledge from across the sector’. The statement also challenges senior management plans to produce an ‘integrated’ and ‘broader’ curriculum, bringing attention to the department’s strengths in Ethnomusicology, Musicology, Sound Studies, Theory & Analysis, Composition, and Performance, a broad curriculum that they claim as ‘one of our greatest strengths’.

The Music Department isn’t the only department being targeted. Five other schools are also involved in the university’s current plans of ‘Academic Realignment’, which would see 24.3 FTE of cuts across Drama, Theatre & Dance, Earth Sciences, The School of Humanities, Mathematics, and Social Work. All departments under threat expressed surprise and dismay to be presented with the proposals this week. The department of Earth Sciences is a top 10 UK Department, and staff have been working hard to develop two exciting new UG programmes designed to attract students concerned about climate change and new forms of energy.

The department of Social Work similarly oppose the proposed staff cuts. Staff in the department have recently been awarded significant research grants (£400,000) including a UKRI/ESRC Covid project, and the department has launched a new BSc path in Social Science. Their programmes recruit a significant percentage of students from Black and minority backgrounds. Equality, diversity and inclusion are central to their teaching and research and the department hope to continue to contribute to school and college EDI initiatives and challenge-led research. Staff strongly believe that the existing work of the department of social work aligns with college plans to grow professional courses, be a civic university, and serve the local community.

Royal Holloway UCU, who hosted the Music Department’s Statement on their blog, have been digitally rallying against the proposals. Their online work has attracted support from top musicians and organisations such as Nicholas Daniel OBE, The London Mozart Players, and Classic FM. The branch is calling for Senior Management to cancel the special Academic Board scheduled for rubber-stamping these proposals on 29th June, and ask for the college to work with the union to protect the future of the college.

As a student and former orchestral scholar at Royal Holloway, I am appalled by the senior management proposals to reduce academic staff levels. Despite studying another discipline, I chose to study at Royal Holloway because of its Music Department. My orchestral scholarship provided me with opportunity above what I ever expected in a lifetime of musicianship. To play in St. John’s Smith Square alongside the London Mozart Players, to be surrounded by such talented and dedicated staff and students, and to receive world-class performance guidance from exceptional academic staff has, quite simply, changed my life as a musician. Royal Holloway’s Music Department is currently 6th best in the UK (2022 The Complete University League Table) and sends 95% of graduates into highly skilled employment within 15 months of graduation (DiscoverUni). For senior management to propose staffing cuts to a department that is recognised nationally as an innovator in research and teaching is utterly insulting. The college’s proposed cuts sit in an ever-growing trend of Higher Education failures to protect the Arts and Humanities alongside Tory government plans to reduce funding for ‘non-strategic’ disciplines.

Royal Holloway UCU and the Music Department ask for all sympathetic parties to write to senior management to share their concerns over the proposals:

Paul Layzell, Principal:  

Ken Badcock, Senior Vice-Principal (Academic Strategy and Research): 

James Knowles, Senior Vice-Principal (Education) and Deputy Principal (Academic): 

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