Posted: April 23, 2023 | Author: Ian Pace | Filed under: Academia, Higher Education, Music - General, Musical Education, Musicology, New Music | Tags: 1992 further and higher education act, Aesthetics, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, alternative education providers, Andrea Creech, Arthur Jacobs, arts council england, Augur Review, autoethnography, BBC Singers, British Music Education Yearbook, British Music Yearbook, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, caps on undergraduate recruitment, Composition, David Keronhan, decolonisation, Dennis A. Ahlburg, Dorothy Taylor, Edward Breen, English National Opera, ethnography, ethnomusicology, Gareth Dylan Smith, Graham Welch, Helena Gaunt, higher education funding council for england, Higher Education Standards Authority, Historical Musicology, incorporated society of musicians, Ioulia Papageorgi, jo johnson, music analysis, Music and Screen, music business, music education, music in higher education, Music Sociology, music technology, music theory, musical theatre, Noel Long, office for students, performance, post-1992 universities, russell group, Sound Design, Sound Production, Sound Studies, Susan Hallam, Times Higher Education, tuition fees, united kingdom |
Over the course of the last 5-6 years, I have been progressively researching many aspects of music in higher education (HE) in the UK, including its history and development, the rise and fall of certain types of courses and their recruitment, staff-student ratios across departments, student satisfaction, curricular issues, the presence of practitioners in faculties, and so on. Some of this is based upon data provided by the Higher Education Standards Authority (HESA) which is permitted for internal use within institutions only, so I cannot give details of that here except where I have been specifically authorised for in other publicly-available writings. Other such research is based upon plenty of information in the public domain (including quite simply information about faculties, courses, etc., which universities are legally obliged to publish on their websites), also that from other organisations dealing with university admissions and so on, and historic data from various yearbooks which detail courses available (old editions of the British Music Yearbook and British Music Education Yearbook are especially useful in this respect, as are some wider university guides), not to mention numerous individual histories of specific universities and wider historical writing on HE in general.
Scholarly writing on music in higher education is overwhelmingly dominated by that from a pedagogical/educationalist perspective; this is vital, but so is historical writing and that based upon data showing the current state of the sector at any one time. Amongst the relatively few published resources I would cite are Noel Long, Music in English Education: Grammar School, University and Conservatoire (London: Faber and Faber, 1959); the reports Making Musicians: A Report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1965) and Training Musicians: A Report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation on the training of professional musicians (London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1978); an important data set in ‘University Music Departments’, in Arthur Jacobs (ed.), Music Education Handbook: A Directory of Music Education in Britain with Reference Articles and Tables (London & New York: Bowker, 1976), pp. 86-102; Dorothy Taylor, Music Now: A Guide to Recent Developments and Current Opportunities in Music Education (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1979); another worthwhile data set in ‘UK Music Degree Courses: A Complete Guide’, The Musical Times, vol. 136 no. 1830 (1995), 417-24; Helena Gaunt and Ioulia Papageorgi, ‘Music in universities and conservatoires’, in Susan Hallam and Andrea Creech (eds.), Music Education in the 21st Century in the United Kingdom: Achievements, analysis and aspirations (London: Institute of Education, 2010); Edward Breen, Thurston Dart and the New Faculty of Music at King’s College London: A 50th anniversary biography (London: King’s College London, 2015); Gareth Dylan Smith, ‘Popular Music in Higher Education’, in Ioulia Papageorgi and Graham Welch (eds.), Advanced Musical Practice: Investigations in Higher Education Learning (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 33-48, and several essays in Björn Heile, Eva Moreda Rodríguez and Jane Stanley (eds.), Higher Education in Music in the Twenty-First Century (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2019). Other resources are primarily journalistic (as are some of the above) or in the form of reports produced by some educational or policy institutions. I have no doubt that there is considerable scope for wider historical and institutional research into music in higher education, both in the UK and globally, not just into how it is taught, but quite simply what is taught and where?
My research in this domain will inform some forthcoming academic articles, and also for reports I produce within my university. That which is based upon information freely published or otherwise in the public domain I wish to share here in a series of blog posts of which this is the first. I would invite constructive comments and reflections from all others with an interest in the sector. I have published a range of articles in the last few years for a wider general readership relating to music in HE, which are now available open access – see my much-commented on piece for the Spectator in 2021 and piece questioning automatic linking of ‘classical’ with ‘colonial’ in The Critic in 2022, as well as three articles on the role of practice in music and the arts in higher education in Times Higher Education (THE) (here, here and here) drawing upon wider debates in which I have been involved on practice and research (an ever-growing body of scholarship across numerous disciplines, surely not least because many of the protagonists have such a degree of vested interests in it), for which a range of links can be found on this blog here. Also in Times Higher, I have published an article looking critically at ethnographic/autoethnographic work in music and elsewhere, another calling for the statutory provision of core subjects, and aspects of a core curriculum, in all regions of the country, and most recently a further contribution to the ‘decolonisation’ debate, arguing that without proper historical teaching about global empires, it amounts simply to parroting of received dogma (this is not yet OA, but will be soon, and I will add the link to that here when it is).
This is a key moment for the UK music HE sector. While overall numbers of students have not fallen in the last 10 years and have actually risen slightly, there has been a major decline in the academic study of music, as compared to more practically-focused training. The blurring of boundaries between the two is more far advanced in the UK than in any European country of which I am aware (where, in general, a university degree is about studying musicology), and this has both positives and negatives. Undoubtedly the wider decline in music provision at primary and secondary level is a factor as explored in the report Music Education: State of the Nation, compiled in 2019 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the University of Sussex . What this all means for the future of university study of music in particular, and quite simply what university departments can do to survive, are key questions. In the period since 1945, there were only ever a small few closures of departments – St. Andrew’s (1988); Leicester (1991); Aberystwyth (1992); and temporarily Aberdeen (1992) (reopening in the early 2000s) – but since 2004 there have been a numerous others where departments have closed or all undergraduate programmes have been suspended – Reading (2004); Exeter (2004); Roehampton (2010); East Anglia (2011); Lancaster (2015); Essex (2016); Abertay Dundee (2019); Cumbria (2022); and Wolverhampton (2022). Other departments such as Keele, Brunel and Kingston have considerably modified their offerings, away from musicology and away from classical music.
However, in the period since 1992 in particular there have also been numerous new departments and courses which have opened, in particular since the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act, which enabled former polytechnics and colleges of higher education to apply for full university status. The growth in music courses in this part of the sector has concentrated on popular/commercial music, music technology and more recently musical theatre. Other relevant developments include the effective trebling of tuition fees to £9K per annum effective from 2012, in conjunction with other cuts to teaching budgets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which meant that students were saddled with much greater debt than ever before, and the removal of caps on undergraduate recruitment from 2015-16, creating more ferocious competition between departments. The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union effective from January 2020 has caused increased fees for EU students, the impact of which on recruitment is still in an early stage (also complicated by the pandemic). Also recently, and in particular following the 2017 Higher Education and Research Act, which amongst other things established the Office for Students (OfS), which took over some of the responsibilities of the then-abolished Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The architect of this act, Lord Johnson (formerly Jo Johnson, brother of the former Prime Minister), who was Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation from 2015 to 2018, made clear very recently his aim that the OfS would encourage the growth of ‘alternative education providers’ (paralleling the growth of academies and free schools at primary/secondary level) which stand outside of the more directly state-regulated sector. As such, some private music providers have been able to obtain university status and/or access to student loans. The growth of these institutions has also in some ways undercut the rest of the sector, subject to fewer checks and balances, not required to share information about recruitment, progression, and so on, often offering 2-year degrees, having little if any research dimension, and in general no more than at most token academic content. The results of the growth of private higher education providers has been surveyed very critically in a US context in an article by economics professor Dennis A. Ahlburg (‘Skunks in an English Woodland: Should England embrace for-profit Higher Education’?, Political Quarterly, vol. 90, no. 2), and I believe we would do well to digest this critique in the UK.
The situation specifically for classical music (a term I prefer in the broad sense to the academically-sanctioned ‘Western Art Music’) is particularly acute, as it is at all levels of education. Classical music is an educated tradition, which as such has a more symbiotic relationship with education than other Western traditions (popular, folk, vernacular) which for much of their history have developed relatively autonomously of educational institutions. At the time of writing, there is a major public debate following the announcements of closures to English National Opera and other institutions by Arts Council England as well as other funding cuts, as well as the more recent BBC announcement of the ending of the BBC Singers, the only salaried professional vocal ensemble in the country, and casualisation of 20% of jobs in BBC orchestras. Commentary following this has often focused on the dwindling representation of classical music in education, and the implications both for the training of musicians and the generation of new audiences, and there are fears that if this process continues, when combined with other factors such as increased difficulty in international musical exchange since Brexit, the whole classical music world in the UK, one of the most extensive in the nineteenth century and beyond, could become seriously damaged and deeply inferior to that in many European countries.
In this and subsequent blogs, like anyone else I am not immune to the possibility of human error in my data, but will generally try and correct any errors I or others find. Furthermore, as individuals come and go from departments, my data may become out-of-date or some may already be (these lists were compiled initially in February 2023). As such, I do invite others either to contact me privately or post on here with constructive information in this respect. I also recognise that some of the issues affecting Scotland are somewhat different to those in the rest of the United Kingdom, as Scotland continues to offer free tuition to all Scottish students.
Types of Music Departments in the UK
Here and elsewhere, the primary focus of my research is on undergraduate provision. There are universities which offer some post-graduate taught courses in or related to music, but do not have a music department (such as Reading or University College London, both of which offer music education). In another blog I will detail existing post-graduate taught courses, but in general those departments upon which I focus have full music departments and offer degrees for undergraduates.
I divide higher education providers for music into six fundamental categories:
(a) Russell Group: those members of the organisation founded in 1994, currently comprising 24 universities which offer music degrees. At the time of writing there are 18 of these: Birmingham; Bristol, Cambridge; Cardiff; Durham; Edinburgh; Glasgow; King’s College, University of London; Leeds; Liverpool; Manchester; Newcastle; Nottingham; Oxford; Queen’s University Belfast; Sheffield; Southampton; York.
(b) Mid-Ranking: those full universities which are neither Russell Group nor post-1992 (see below), 15 of which offer full music degrees: Aberdeen; Bangor; Brunel; City, University of London; Goldsmiths College, University of London; Hull; Keele; Kent; Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA); Royal Holloway, University of London; Open University; Salford; Surrey; Sussex; Ulster. There are three others which skirt the boundaries of this category: Reading (which had a music department until 2004), which offers a degree in Primary Education and Music; Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, which offers one degree in Sound Design and Production; and SOAS, which ran a sole music degree, with tiny numbers, until 2020 or 2021, but now offers only joint degrees with music.
(c) Post-1992: institutions which were polytechnics or colleges of higher education, or occasionally another name before 1992, but which now (or following mergers with other institutions) have full university status. 66 of these offer music degrees: Anglia Ruskin; Bath Spa; Bedfordshire; Birmingham City (though the music department here largely comprises the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire); Bishop Grosseteste; Bolton; Bournemouth; Brighton; Buckinghamshire New; Canterbury Christ Church; Central Lancashire; Chester; Chichester; University Centre Colchester; Coventry; University of the Creative Arts; De Montfort; Derby; East London; Edge Hill; Edinburgh Napier; Falmouth; Gloucestershire; Glyndŵr, Greenwich, University Centre Grimsby; Hertfordshire; Highlands and Islands; Huddersfield; Kingston; Leeds Arts; Leeds Beckett; Lincoln; Liverpool Hope; Liverpool John Moores; London Metropolitan; London South Bank; University of the Arts London; Manchester Metropolitan; UCEN Manchester; Middlesex; Northampton; Northumbria; Nottingham Trent; Oxford Brookes; Plymouth; Plymouth Marjon; Arts University Plymouth; Portsmouth; Ravensbourne; University Centre Rotherham; Southampton Solent; Staffordshire; Sunderland; Teesside; University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire; South Wales (largely encompassed by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama); Wales Trinity Saint David; West London; West of England; West of Scotland; Westminster; Winchester; Worcester; York St John; University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire.
(d) Others (Colleges of Higher Education, etc.): those other institutions offering degree-level courses. 8 of these offer full courses: Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (Brighton MET); Burnley College; South Gloucestershire and Stroud College; Lincoln College; Loughborough College; Middlesbrough College; Newcastle College University Centre; Rose Bruford College; West Suffolk College. A further 12 offer solely ‘Top-Up’ courses, equivalent to the final year of an undergraduate degree, enabling students to upgrade an existing qualification to become a degree: Bedford College Group; University Centre Calderdale College; Cardiff and Vale College; New College Durham; Hereford College of Arts; Hull College; City of Liverpool College University Centre; Morley College; City College Plymouth; Sheffield College; East Sussex College.
(e) Conservatoires: institutions with a greater focus on performance and 1-1 tuition, but offer full music degree courses, of which there are 9: Royal College of Music (RCM); Royal Academy of Music (RAM); Guildhall School of Music and Drama (GSMD); Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; Leeds Conservatoire; Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM); Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC); Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS); Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD).
(f) Private Providers. Here I list the 9 providers offering undergraduate degree courses via UCAS: Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM); British and Irish Modern Music Institute University (BIMM); Futureworks, Manchester; Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP); Liverpool Media Academy (LMA); London College of Creative Media (LCCM); Point Blank Music School; SAE Institute; Waterbear College of Music. Some of these are more akin to franchises than simple physical institutions – BIMM, Point Blank and SAE have branches in various localities and in other countries. Some others which might be listed here, such as the dBS Institute, are almost wholly directed by other universities (in this case Falmouth), so I do not classify them as independent providers, though I am aware that some of the categorisations are open to challenge.
Categories (a)-(c) and (e) are those for which most information is available, and so form the basis of my study. Notwithstanding some blurring of the differentation between universities and conservatoires/practical training schools mentioned earlier, differences still remain (and conservatoires require certain provisions to be able to call themselves as such), not least in terms of the nature of the staffing base, as I will detail below.
The use of some such categories is certainly open to question in terms of how much they reveal. There is no necessary reason to believe that research-intensive universities deliver any better teaching than others, and so the Russell Group should not be seen as an equivalent of the US Ivy League. Furthermore, 1992 is now three decades ago, and the trajectory of various institutions can be more significant than their provenance. At the time of writing, in terms of the nature of their offers, faculties, research record, etc., it would be difficult without prior knowledge to know in exactly which category the likes of Huddersfield, Keele, Kent or Oxford Brookes, for example, belong. Nonetheless, the categories do still have some wider purchase – at a conference in London on Higher Education in Autumn 2022 which I attended, a representative from the organisation Unifrog, who help students with making application choices, revealed that by some considerable measure the most frequent search criterion used by applicants was whether an institution is a member of the Russell Group or not. There is also a real distinction between the Russell Group and many of the post-92s in terms of the role that research plays – only 25 out of the 66 post-1992 institutions listed above were submitted for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, and none of the Colleges of HE or private providers (though most of the conservatoires were).
Using data derived from HESA figures, which I received permission to use in one of the Times Higher articles I published last year, the following is the breakdown of numbers of students in different parts of the sector who were admitted in the 2020-21 academic year, excluding those who entered Colleges of HE and private providers for which data is either unavailable or incomplete:
Russell Group: 1778 students (25.1% of university students, 19.9% of those in whole sector)
Mid-Ranking: 775 students (10.9% of university students, 8.7% of those in whole sector)
Post-1992: 4534 students: (64% of university students; 50.7% of those in whole sector)
Conservatoires: 1853 students (20.7% of whole sector).
2020-21, which was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, may seem an unrepresentative year, but I can aver that figures for the previous few years were not significantly different in terms of the distribution or overall numbers.
Thus claims that the Russell Group would ‘hoover up’ the majority of students following the lifting of caps have proved unfounded. By far the largest numbers are those in post-1992 institutions, which for the most part offer degrees which do not coincide with what may be preconceptions of what a music degree entails. These are primarily vocationally-oriented degrees in music technology, commercial music, musical theatre, but not generally of the level of intensity of those in conservatoires. Data on employment prospects, and as such the relationship between such vocational offerings and actual vocations available, is unclear, as the current means of reporting this enables many institutions to give single figures for all creative and performing arts, which can be skewered because of the role of courses in Design, which are dominant in the creative arts and for which many jobs are available in various parts of industry (see also David Kernohan, ‘What are creative arts courses?’, Wonkhe Explainer, 14 December 2022). The future of many such music courses in light of intentions made clear by some politicians, and the 2019 Augur Review, to end ‘low-earning degrees’, as various creative/performing arts degrees do not tend to score well on this measure.
Many protagonists on music in higher education with a public profile, including myself, come from Russell Group or mid-ranking institutions. The type of sector they and their colleagues (and research collaborators) tend to see on a daily basis is not representative of that experienced by the majority of students, which should always be taken into account when aiming for broader conclusions.
The following data is compiled from the websites of universities, with extra details added where made available through colleagues working there. Some of the staff websites are more user-friendly than others, and some individual staff pages are not ‘live’, or have not been updated to account for changes in personnel. As such, there will inevitably be some degree of approximation, and of course staff will continue to change. Nonetheless, this data should give a reasonable snapshot of the situation at the time of writing.
I count here salaried academic staff in the departments in question, as far as I have been able to establish about their status (again, there may be some errors). I have not included visiting/associate/hourly-paid lecturers, other freelance staff, emeritus professors, research fellows, or technical staff. For this reason, for now I have limited this list to categories (a)-(c) above; at other types of institutions (especially conservatoires) are largely staffed by hourly-paid faculty. In some full universities this can also be the case, where there is a significant divide between research and research expertise and the demands of teaching, with a lot of teaching undertaken by hourly-paid staff or doctoral students. But this list gives an indication of which staff are given the most valued types of positions (for better or worse) at present. The relationship between salaried and hourly-paid staff may change or need to change in music as a result of greater integration of practitioners, and (as argued in some of my THE pieces) the need both to value their contributions and status more, as well as working to better integrate them into the values and practices of university education.
The categorisation is based primarily upon the areas of research or wider expertise made clear with respect to the staff in question, where these are clear. It should be borne in mind that some staff teach in part or whole in areas other than those of their primary research. Some categories are a bit blurred; in the UK the distinction between ‘historians’ and ‘theorists’ is nothing like as clear as in the US, and many (including myself) straddle both categories. For the most part the study of musical aesthetics is undertaken by those in the categories of history and analysis. Music technology is also a broad category, relating to a range of activities. Here I have added particular categories for those whose work is focused on composition and technology, or sound art and technology.
It is rarely the case that part-time salaried staff are indicated as such on university websites; in the absence of comprehensive data on this aspect, further approximation has to be assumed. Also, it is often unclear whether some staff have temporary or permanent contracts. Where I am aware, I have not counted temporary staff (as they are usually covering for permanent staff on sabbatical or research leave), but again there may be more approximations as a result.
Russell Group Faculties
Birmingham: 3 Historical; 1 History/Performance; 3 History/Analysis; 2 Composition; 2 Composition/Tech; 2 Performance; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Tech/Sound Art.
Bristol: 5 Historical; 3 Composition; 1 Music and Film; 1 Popular Music; 2 Other
Cambridge: 4 Historical; 1 Theory/Analysis; 2 Composition; 1 Music/Science; 1 Music Sociology; 2 Ethnomusicology; 1 Performance.
Cardiff: 5 Historical/Aesthetics/Analysis; 1 Historical; 3 Historical/Contemporary; 1 Historical/Cinema; 5 Composition; 3 Ethnomusicology; 1 Popular.
Durham: 4 Historical (one employed by Russian Studies department); 1 History/Religion; 2 Theory/Analysis; 2 Psychology; 3 Composition; 2 Ethnomusicology; 1 Tech; 2 Performance.
Edinburgh: 2 Historical; 2 Acoustics; 1 Tech; 1 Screen/Media; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Pop/Jazz; 1 Performance; 1 Psychology; 1 Psychology/Education; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Glasgow: 3 Historical; 1 Historical/Performance; 1 Historical/Contemporary; 1 Popular; 2 Composition; 4 Sonic Arts; 1 Popular.
King’s College, London: 9 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics; 1 Historical/Sound; 1 Historical/Composition; 2 Composition; 4 Ethnomusicology; 1 Jazz;
Leeds: 4 Historical; 1 Historical/Contemporary; 6 Psychology; 1 Philosophy; 1 Aesthetics; 1 Performance Practice; 2 Management; 1 Popular; 1 Popular/Analysis; 2 Theory/Analysis; 1 Film; 2 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Tech; 1 Tech/Composition/Performance; 1 Contemporary Context; 1 Various/Performance; 1 Film/Theatre.
Liverpool: 1 Historical; 1 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics; 1 Theory/Analysis; 1 Aesthetics; 1 Critical Musicology; 1 Psychology; 8 Pop/Jazz; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Composition/Screen; 5 Tech; 4 Industries; 3 Performance; 2 Gaming; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Manchester: 6 History/Analysis/Aesthetics; 3 Theory/Analysis; 6 Composition; 3 Ethnomusicology; 1 Performance; 1 Jazz; 1 Media/Film.
Newcastle: 6 Historical; 1 Historical/Ethnomusicology; 2 Theory/Analysis; 5 Ethnomusicology; 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 2 Pop; 1 Pop/Performance; 1 Performance; 1 Business/Enterprise; 1 Education.
Nottingham: 4 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics; 1 Psychology; 2 Composition; 1 Tech; 1 Pop; 1 Screen; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Performance.
Oxford: 12 Historical; 1 History/Analysis; 1 Theory/Analysis; 1 Education; 3 Composition; 1 Popular; 1 Sound Studies; 1 Ethnomusicology; 3 Performance.
Queen’s Belfast: 4 Historical; 1 Composition; 5 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance/Tech; 1 Sound.
Sheffield: 3 Historical; 4 Psychology; 4 Ethnomusicology; 2 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Education; 1 Pop; 1 Musical Theatre; 1 Management.
Southampton: 5 Historical; 1 Historical/Management; 1 Theory/Analysis; 1 Performance; 1 Performance/Tech/Composition; 2 Composition; 1 Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology.
York: 1 Historical; 2 Historical/Performance; 1 Analysis; 3 Composition; 2 Composition/Tech; 1 Composition/Performance; 2 Psychology; 1 Psychology/Media; 2 Education; 3 Performance; 1 Popular/Analysis; 1 Popular/Recording/Sociology; 1 Popular/Composition; 1 Sound Production/Recording.
58 Composition/Sonic Arts
18 Music Psychology
8.5 Music Business/Management/Industry
6.5 Music for Screen/Film/Media
5.5 Philosophy/Aesthetics (and some others in History or Analysis who engage with this)
2.5 Sound/Sound Studies
1.5 Musical Theatre
1 Music Sociology
1 Critical Musicology
1 Performance Practice
0.5 Music and Religion
(where a faculty member belongs in two categories, I add 0.5 to the total for each. For Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics, I have divided into 0.5 Historical, 0.5 Analysis, as these are the bigger categories. For the likes of Performance/Tech/Composition, I have added 0.5 to the first two, as these tend to be the most significant.).
Aberdeen: 3 Historical/Aesthetics; 1 Theory/Analysis; 3 Composition; 1 Performance; 1 Performance/Community; 1 Community; 1 Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Bangor: 1 Historical/Popular; 3 Composition; 1 Performance; 1 Education/Community; 1 Traditional.
Brunel: 2 Composition; 2 Performance; 1 Tech; 1 Education.
City: 1 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics: 1 Historical/Analysis/Aesthetics/Performance; 5 Composition/Tech; 1 Recording/Production; 3 Ethnomusicology; 4 Musical Theatre; 1 Musical Theatre Production.
Goldsmiths: 3 Historical; 1 Historical/Performance; 4 Composition; 1 Popular Composition; 3 Performance; 1 Ethnomusicology; 4 Pop; 4 Tech/Production; 4 Other.
Hull: 1 Historical/Film; 1 Historical/Performance; 1 Jazz; 2 Tech/Production; 1 Performance; 1 Popular Performance; 1 Psychology; 1 Composition/Production.
Keele: 1 History/Aesthetics; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Tech.
Kent: 1 Composition; 1 Psychology/Performance; 1 Performance/Tech; 1 Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Tech.
LIPA: 1 Songwriting/Production; 1 Songwriting/Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Pop/Gender; 1 Production; 3 Popular Performance; 1 Performance/Composition.
Open: 5 Historical; 1 Historical/Performance; 2 Screen; 1 Screen/Cultural History; 1 Music and Theology; 1 Pop; 1 Tech; 1 Ethnomusicology. (Here I have not included the category of ‘Staff Tutors’).
Royal Holloway: 6 Historical; 3 Composition; 2 Performance; 2 Composition/Tech; 3 Ethnomusicology.
Salford: 1 Historical/General; 4 Tech/Production; 1 Performance; 3 Composition; 1 Pop; 1 Pop/Electronics/Sound; 1 Pop Performance; 1 Enterprise/Engagement; 1 Instruments; 1 Ethnomusicology.
SOAS: 6 Ethnomusicology.
Surrey: 1 Historical; 1 Historical/Screen; 1 Historical/Pop; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Performance; 6 Tech/Audio; 1 Pop; 1 Performance; 1 Performance/Tech. (Musical Theatre delivered by the Guildford School is not clear in terms of salaried staff here).
Sussex: 1 Opera/Musical Theatre; 1 Composition; 3 Composition/Tech; 1 Composition/Performance; 1 Pop; 4 Tech.
Ulster: 1 Historical/Contemporary; 1 Pop; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance/Composition.
4.5 Musical Theatre (possibly more through Surrey)
1.5 Music Psychology
1.5 Music Education
Anglia Ruskin: 2 Musical Theatre; 8 Music Therapy; 4 Tech/Audio; 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Performance.
Bath Spa: 1 Historical/Ethnomusicology; 2 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Jazz; 1 Musical Theatre; 1 Ethnomusicology.
Bedfordshire: No salaried music staff are made clear via the website.
Birmingham City: not included since the staff are largely employed by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Bishop Grosseteste: 1 Historical; 1 Performance.
Bolton: 1 Screen/Composition.
Bournemouth: 5 Tech/Audio; 1 Composition/Tech.
Brighton: 1 Aesthetics (not just music); 4 Composition/Sound Art; 1 Pop/Sociology.
Buckinghamshire: 1 Performance/Sociology; 1 Tech/Composition; 1 Composition/Sound Art; 1 Sound/Media; 1 Engineering/Production; 1 Pop/Performance/Production; 1 Audio/Sound; 1 Management; 1 Recording/Production
Canterbury Christ Church: 2 Historical/Performance; 5 Composition/Sonic Art; 1 Performance/Tech.
Central Lancashire: 1 Business/Industry; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Pop; 2 Musical Theatre; 1 Performance.
Chester: 1 Popular Performance; 1 Composition; 1 Tech/Production; 2 Pop; 1 Journalism; 1 Musical Theatre.
Chichester: 4 Performance; 5 Musical Theatre; 1 Orchestral. (Many Associate Lecturers and instrumental/vocal tutors).
Colchester: 1 Popular Performance; 1 Screen; 1 Screen/Performance; 1 Education; 1 Musical Theatre.
Coventry: 1 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Game Audio.
Creative Arts: 1 Historical; 1 Composition/Screen; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Journalism.
De Montfort: 1 Composition; 7 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance/Tech; 1 Audio.
Derby: 2 Pop/Tech; 2 Production.
East London: 4 Composition; 1 Songwriting/Production; 1 Production/Sound Design; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Performance.
Edge Hill: 3 Production; 3 Musical Theatre.
Edinburgh Napier: 1 Media/Pop/Cultural Studies; 3 Composition; 3 Performance; 1 Composition/Pop Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Education.
Falmouth: 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 2 Musical Theatre; 3 Pop; 3 Tech/Audio; 5 Performance.
Gloucestershire: 1 Composition; 3 Business; 2 Production; 1 Performance; 1 Pop.
Glyndŵr: 1 Performance; 1 Tech/Production. (There may be a few more here).
Greenwich: the Dance/Musical Theatre degree is offered via Bird College – staff do not appear to be on academic contracts. A few Sound Design staff appear to contribute to a wider course.
Grimsby: Unclear from website.
Hertfordshire: Unclear from website.
Highlands and Islands: 2 Business; 2 Pop; 2 Composition; 5 Performance; 1 Education.
Huddersfield: 1 Historical; 4 Composition; 3 Composition/Tech; 3 Performance; 4 Tech/Sound Production; 1 Pop; 1 Screen.
Kingston: 1 Composition; 3 Composition/Performance/Tech; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Pop/Performance; 1 Education.
Leeds Art: 5 Popular Performance; 1 Performance; 1 Tech/Production.
Leeds Beckett: 2 Screen/Video; 8 Composition/Performance/Tech (one of these Songwriting); 9 Tech/Sound Production; 2 Performance/Production; 3 Performance; 2 Business; 2 Other.
Lincoln: 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Pop/Sound Design; 2 Composition; 2 Performance.
Liverpool Hope: 2 Production; 1 Performance; 1 Pop.
Liverpool John Moores: 1 Pop; 1 Ethnomusicology; 1 Music and Literature.
London Metropolitan: 3 Tech/Production.
London South Bank: 2 Sound Design.
University of the Arts London: 1 Composition/Sound Art/Historical Performance; 4 Composition/Sound Art.
Manchester Metropolitan: 1 Gaming; 3 Sound Design; 1 Composition/Recording.
UCEN Manchester: None listed.
Middlesex: 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Historical; 4 Management/Industry/Business; 5 Pop; 1 Jazz Composition/Performance; 1 Tech.
Northampton: 5 Pop; 2 Pop/Production.
Northumbria: 2 Historical; 1 Performance/Instruments; 1 Pop.
Nottingham Trent: 1 Performance.
Oxford Brookes: 3 Historical; 1 Pop; 1 Sound; 1 Screen; 1 Composition.
Plymouth: 1 Education; 1 Psychology; 1 Musical Theatre; 1 Composition/Computing.
Plymouth Marjon: no dedicated salared music staff listed on website.
Arts University Plymouth: 2 Sound Art/Tech.
Portsmouth: 1 Tech/Audio; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Music/Theatre/Other; 1 Musical Theatre.
Ravensbourne: 3 Sound Design/Recording/Audio; 1 Musical Theatre Composition/Performance; 1 Performance/Composition.
University Centre Rotherham: Not clear from website.
Southampton Solent: 4 Popular Performance; 1 Pop; 1 Art/Music; 2 Composition (1 songwriting, 1 sound); 1 Management; 1 Performance/Sound; 1 Performance; 1 Sound/Tech; 1 Production.
South Wales: not included since the staff are largely employed by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Staffordshire: 2 Tech/Engineering; 2 Sound Design; 2 Composition/Tech. (This list may not be complete as the website is very patchy).
Sunderland: 1 Composition/Performance; 1 Composition/Sound Art; 1 Performance.
Teesside: 3 Tech/Production.
University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire: Not clear from website.
Wales Trinity Saint David: 3 Tech.
West London: 1 Historical; 3 Tech; 1 Pop; 1 Pop/Tech/Recording; 3 Musical Theatre; 4 Performance (one non-Western); 2 Performance/Recording; 2 Production/Recording; 2 Composition; 1 Songwriting/Recording; 1 Sound/Sociology; 2 Management; 1 Screen.
West of England: 7 Tech/Audio.
West of Scotland: 2 Performance; 3 Pop Studies; 3 Composition; 1 Composition/Tech; 1 Tech.
Westminster: 1 Performance/Composition/Tech; 2 Performance; 1 Performance/Industry; 1 Composition; 1 Tech/Production; 1 Music/Film. (May be others – website information patchy).
Winchester: 3 Musical Theatre; 1 Tech/Production.
Worcester: all academic staff for Musical Theatre here appear to be Theatre staff without specific music expertise.
York St John: 3 Production; 2 Community; 2 Composition; 2 Performance; 1 Historical/Various
Totals (excluding Bedfordshire, Birmingham City (conservatoire), Grimsby, Hertfordshire, Plymouth Marjon, University Centre Rotherham, South Wales (conservatoire), University Centre at the Heart of Yorkshire):
25.5 Musical Theatre
9.5 Sound Design
8 Music Therapy
5 Music Education
3.5 Sound/Sound Studies
1.5 Music Sociology
1 Music Psychology
1 Music Journalism
+ 9.5 Other
Colleges of HE, etc.
Here I only include those institutions which offer full degrees, rather than just top-up ones.
Brighton MET: 2 Recording/Production
Burnley College: unclear from website
South Gloucestershire and Stroud College: 1 Musical Theatre
Lincoln College: unclear from website
Loughborough College: unclear from website
Middlesborough College: 1 Recording/Production
Newcastle College University Centre: 1 Music unspecified; 1 Production
Rose Bruford: 1 Sound; 1 Performance
West Suffolk College: unclear from website
Totals (though information too patchy):
1 Musical Theatre
1 Music unspecified
I am not listing here faculties at conservatoires, because of the great difficulty in establishing which faculty members count as research/academic staff and which not. Terms such as ‘Professor of Violin’ does not necessarily have the same meaning as a Professor in a university (and certainly would not necessarily imply a research position such as would require them to be submitted to the REF). I am also not including private providers since the precise status of staff is also not clear.
As mentioned above, many institutions also employ a considerable number of hourly-paid or visiting lecturers; at some these may be responsible for a large percentage of the teaching. But these have a different type of status (considerably more precarious), are often impossible to count, and are almost never research staff. This is just a list of salaried academic staff.
169.5 Composition/Sonic Art
119.5 Historical Musicology
32 Musical Theatre (possibly more)
23 Music Business/Management/Industry
21.5 Music for Screen/Film/Media/Gaming
20.5 Music Psychology
12 Music Education
9.5 Sound Design
8 Music Therapy
6 Music Philosophy/Aesthetics
5.5 Sound/Sound Studies
2.5 Music Sociology
2.5 Performance Practice/Instruments
2 Community Music
1 Critical Musicology
1 Music unspecified
0.5 Music and Religion
0.5 Opera Studies
The categories above are sure to be seen as problematic by some. The grouping together of music technology, electronics, production and recording might be argued to conflate a range of quite distinct activities, and some of the work in ‘Electronics’ in particular might be better grouped with composition. Similarly the ‘Historical Musicology’ not only spans a period of over a millennium, encompassing often radically different types of work, but also the work of some involved in this (including myself) overlaps with theory/analysis and aesthetics, while there are a small number whose work on popular musics or sound studies can be historical in nature. ‘Performance’ is also a broad category, involving performers in a range of different genres requiring different skills and expectations; the same is true of ‘Composition’. It also needs to be noted that a lot of individual and group performance teaching is undertaken by hourly-paid lecturers, usually specialists on a particular instrument/voice. But all categorisations inevitably involve some degree of simplification, and I think this one should help to understand and interpret the broader picture.
So, first of all I wish to consider from this the numbers of those academics whose work is centered around scholarly investigation of music (which we can broadly call ‘musicology’, even though some subsets of this, including music sociology, some ethnomusicology, or music education, may have more in common with other disciplinary fields than musicology), compared to those involved more often in practical music-making or other practical activity. I am including pop/jazz and film/screen/media/gaming within scholarly investigation, where the academics are not clearly indicated as composers in these fields (though this may lead to some minor inaccuracies), and similarly sound/sound studies, but sound design, musical theatre, music therapy and tech/science/electronics/production/recording are all classified as practical activities (even though some of these may include a detached and critically self-reflective component). Then the totals are as follows:
Russell Group: 202.5 scholarly (65.5%); 104.5 practical (33.8%); 2 other (0.6%).
Mid-Ranking: 62.5 scholarly (48.8%); 61.5 practical (48%); 4 other (3%).
Post-92: 101.5 scholarly (26.3%); 275 practical (71.2%); 9.5 other (2.4%).
Colleges of HE, etc: 2 scholarly (25%); 6 practical (75%).
TOTALS: 368.5 scholarly (44.3%); 447 practical (53.8%); 15.5 other (4%).
The picture is clear – the Russell Group have a stronger tendency towards scholarly investigation, though still a sizeable component of practical activity; the two things are roughly matched in Mid-Ranking institutions; and there is a very strong tendency towards practical activity in Post-92 institutions and Colleges of HE, etc. Nonetheless, of the latter group, Bolton, Bournemouth, Derby, East London, Edge Hill, Glyndŵr, Greenwich, Leeds Art, London Met, London South Bank, University of the Arts London, Nottingham Trent, Arts University Plymouth, Ravensbourne, Staffordshire, Sunderland, Teesside, Wales Trinity St David, West of England, Winchester, Worcester have no obvious scholarly representation on the faculty, while the scholarly component at Buckinghamshire New, Central Lancashire, Chichester, De Montfort, Kingston, Lincoln, Liverpool Hope, Manchester Met, Portsmouth, Westminster and York St John is very small. Even amongst those institutions submitting to the REF in 2021 (Anglia Ruskin, Bath Spa, Canterbury Christ Church, Central Lancashire, Chester, Chichester, Coventry, De Montfort, East London, Edinburgh Napier, Huddersfield, Kingston, Leeds Art, Leeds Beckett, Lincoln, Liverpool Hope, Middlesex, Oxford Brookes, Plymouth, Portsmouth, West London, Winchester, Worcester and York St John) the majority of submissions were practice-based.
Representation of scholars is also thin at Brunel, Kent, LIPA, Sussex, Ulster amongst Mid-Ranking institutions, in the case of Sussex in particular a significant shift from their earlier profile. There are no Russell Group institutions with no practitioners, but this category is dominated by composers. Across the sector as a whole, there are more practitioners than scholars, but the margin is not huge.
There can surely be few subjects in which the gap between the Russell Group and the Post-92 institutions is so strong. It is hard to imagine a good deal of Russell Group lecturers teaching in the Post-92s, and vice versa. Only a small minority of Post-92 university music departments resemble the more traditional types, with a focus upon critical scholarly inquiry. Over three decades after the 1992 Education Act, the distinction between what were once universities and polytechnics is still very strong. Only with the advent of the Russell Group (arguably in response to the 1992 Act, to preserve differentials) comes the category of the Mid-Ranking, and in many ways these institutions face the biggest questions of disciplinary and institutional identity, and whether the students they aim to recruit are those likely otherwise to choose Russell Group, or alternatively Post-92, Colleges of HE, or private institutions. The profiles of Royal Holloway on one hand, or Kent on the other, differ very significantly.
The Post-92 institutions have a huge bias towards music of now, with little representation of music of previous centuries (including scholars working on historical popular music, jazz or technology) or other world traditions. There is however often a chasm between the dominant focus on commercial music in their courses and curricula and the relatively few staff with a significant commercial profile, at least in terms of composition and performance. For those institutions submitting to the REF this may relate to the relative difficulty of framing a good deal of commercial music (or mainstream classical, jazz, community music) as ‘research’, as I argued here. In music, the types of iconoclastic or avant-garde work which are most ‘REF-friendly’ (in the case of composition often very systematic work, or which uses brand new instruments or technology, or unusual techniques) can be at odds with those more familiar and popular types which can attract students, perhaps more so than in some other artistic disciplines, with such a strong chasm between the avant-garde and the popular in music.
Historical musicology and ethnomusicology are absent from the salaried faculties of most post-92 institutions. Wider approaches from the humanities or social sciences are not really represented either; these areas are undoubtedly concentrated in Russell Group institutions. In the Mid-Ranking sector, Aberdeen, Goldsmiths, the Open University, Royal Holloway and Surrey have fair representations of historical work, while City, Holloway and SOAS have a significant focus upon ethnomusicology. Musical theatre courses, again concentrated in the post-92 sector, rely heavily upon associate/visiting lecturers.
Amongst academics with a historical focus, there is a strong concentration upon the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Early music, meaning the whole Western repertoire of the pre-baroque (roughly pre-1600) period, is quite well represented in the RG, with 5 lecturers at Oxford, and 14 across the other institutions; at 3 mid-ranking (Bangor, the Open University and Royal Holloway); and 3 in the post-92 sector (Birmingham City, Northumbria, and Oxford Brookes).
More widely, the sector has more academics in the field of contemporary composition and sonic art than in any other category. Only a relative few of these could be said to be commercial composers, and even amongst the rest there is a general bias towards ‘new music’. As noted in my first blog post on new music published last year, this situation has been critiqued by various people, most notably musicologist Nicholas Cook, who argues that the representation of new music is out of all proportion to student interest in it. This almost certainly relates to the demands of the REF mentioned above, but it is a strange situation when students are considerably more likely to be taught by those with some expertise in a niche area of new music than one with expertise in Bach, Beethoven or bebop jazz. I will return to the area of new music in academia in the ‘New Music’ blog series.
There are various other conclusions which might be drawn from this data, including relating to the career prospects of academics in certain disciplinary fields. I will leave those for others to consider, and in future blog posts in this series will consider degree courses and curricula, as well as more on the historical development of the sector.
Posted: November 11, 2018 | Author: Ian Pace | Filed under: BBC, brexit, Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, media, Politics | Tags: 2017 general election, alan renwick, andrew marr, brexit, Conservative Party, der spiegel, emily thornberry, jeremy corbyn, jess sargeant, jo johnson, jorg schindler, justine greening, labour party, meg russell, people's vote, university college london |
Like many others, I was deeply disappointed to read Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Der Spiegel published two days ago (Jörg Schindler, ‘Interview with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn: “We Can’t Stop Brexit”‘, Spiegel Online, 9 November 2018). This was published right after the news of transport minister Jo Johnson’s resignation and calls for a second referendum on Brexit, since which he has said it would be a ‘democratic travesty’ not to have another Brexit vote. Corbyn’s statement seemed to make this impossible, as a new referendum bill or amendment to that effect of an existing bill could not happen without Labour support.
The 2017 General Election produced 317 Tory MPs, 262 Labour, 35 SNP, 12 Liberal Democrats, 10 DUP, 7 Sinn Fein, 4 Plaid Cymru, 1 Green, 1 Independent and the Speaker. There is no likelihood at all of the Sinn Fein MPs ever taking up their seats, whilst the Speaker remains nominally neutral. Neither he (John Bercow (Conservative)) nor his three deputies (Lindsay Hoyle (Labour), Eleanor Laing (Conservative) and Rosie Winterton (Labour)) vote, by convention. The meaningful total is therefore 639 rather than 650, and so the government needs 30 seats for a majority. Following the Confidence and Supply agreement with the DUP, the government can count on their support in motions of confidence and various aspects of their legislative agenda, thus producing effectively 326 (316 Tories, without their Deputy Speaker, plus 10 DUP) MPs, as against 311 in the Opposition. Since the General Election, 2 Tories and 5 Labour MPs have either been suspended from their party or have resigned the whip, so there are a total 8 Independent MPs, whose loyalties in confidence or crucial Brexit motions may be unknown.
But assuming the suspended/resigned MPs continue to vote according to type, the government has a working majority of 13 votes. This means that if seven Tory or DUP MPs vote against them, they could lose a vote if there is also 100% opposition from the other parties.
It is now looking possible, even perhaps likely, that Theresa May will fail to get any deal through Parliament, with a range of Brexiteer Tories and the DUP warning they will vote against, while the deal is also opposed by some Remainer supporters of a second referendum such as Justine Greening. Representatives of the government have been allegedly attempting to woo some Labour MPs to support them on a deal. The Mirror suggested as many as 30 may be prepared to do this, but this may be too few, though the consequences of last-minute pressure from whips in both parties should not be underestimated.
But if the government fails to get a deal through Parliament, it is highly unlikely that they themselves would introduce a second referendum bill, having repeatedly ruled it out (though, as has been noted, Theresa May as repeatedly ruled out an early general election, then called one). However, there are various means by which such a thing could be triggered, either through primary legislation or amendments to existing bills; a UCL paper details five possible scenarios (Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell, ‘The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit’ (London: The Constitutional Unit, UCL, 2018), pp. 23-28).
The major question is whether a parliamentary majority could be found for this option. As the DUP are firm supporters of Brexit, there is little chance of their supporting any second referendum motion. At present, The Sun counts eight Tory MPs supporting a second referendum: Johnson, Philip Lee, Justine Greening, Anna Soubry, Guto Bebb, Amber Rudd, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston. They do not list Dominic Grieve oddly, but he has made clear his support for this for some time. There are plenty of suggestions that a variety of other Tory MPs would support this if it came to it, despite not having yet said so publicly. The Liberal Democrats and SNP are likely to vote solidly for such a measure. As for Labour, in June The Independent counted 42 MPs backing a second referendum, to which there are probably a few other names to be added. But almost none of the Corbynistas, nor many of the Brownites/(Ed) Milibandites are on this list. Then there are the pro-Brexit Labour MPs, including Grahame Stringer, John Mann, Kate Hoey, Dennis Skinner and (formerly holding the Labour whip) Frank Field, while others such as Caroline Flint and Stephen Kinnock appear opposed to a second referendum. The 2018 Labour Conference saw a motion passed keeping a second referendum option open if MPs are deadlocked, but this does not firmly commit to anything. That said, Corbyn’s statement to Der Spiegel would appear to be in direct contravention of conference policy.
A second referendum will only get through with relatively solid Labour support, and a significant number of Tory MPs voting for it. My guess is that between 10 and 20 Labour MPs will definitely oppose even if the party institutes a three-line whip, so this requires 20 to 30 Tory MPs to vote for it and against their own government, a tall order. However, if the country looks to be heading for no deal (and Theresa May has set a date of this week, as Parliament returns from recess, for the government will begin to set into motion many emergency measures to deal with this), all sorts of new options are possible.
So, in light of Corbyn’s statement, a second referendum may seem impossible. Or is it? Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show this morning (42’27”-56’22”). After Marr brought up Corbyn’s statement, apparently ruling out a second referendum, Thornberry began by saying that ‘the results of the referendum need to ought to be abided by’, but then immediately afterwards said ‘We do need an injection of democracy in between the results of the referendum and us going any further’. She then said that Labour wanted a ‘meaningful vote’, which was not what Theresa May was giving them in offering the choice between her deal or no deal, ‘the devil and the deep blue sea’. Thornberry said that instead, there should be a general election, but if that did not happen, then ‘yes, of course, all the options remain on the table and we would, you know, campaign for there to be a People’s Vote, but there are several stages before we get there’. Pushed further on Corbyn’s statement, Thornberry attempted to diffuse this by claiming context, need to be democrats, etc., and went onto discuss staying in the Customs Union, trying to produce ‘a Brexit which is good for the country’ (with no details of what this might be) and so on. When brought back to what is Labour’s procedure, Thornberry said ‘First stage is we demand a general election and that is what the proper thing should be. If we don’t get a general election then what we have said is all options remain on the table, and we will…’ then Marr interrupted to point out that Parliament has passed statute and so there are no options for overturning that. Thornberry then said ‘The difficulty is, our system is such that we are in opposition. You know, there are many ways in which we would want to have proceeded over this period of time, and we have a government…’, when Marr interrupted again to point out that they had a general election last year. Thornberry continued to say ‘But we have been doing our best to try to keep this government honest, try to keep this government focused on what’s good for the country, and we have been entirely consistent about that. She knows what it is that…. and like everyone else, vacillating backwards and forwards. We have said: six tests, we will vote for it, bring back a deal we will agree to. If she’s sensible, what she’ll do, is she’ll negotiate properly and bring back a deal which means that we’re in a Customs Union, and that we’re in a free market agreement with the European Union, based on free market rules, and if she brings back something like that, then it may well be that she’ll get sufficient support, but she won’t [attempt from Marr to interrupt again], hang on hang on, let me just, because this is really important, she won’t do that, because she’s more interested in saving her own skin and the Tory Party, because what she will rely on is Labour votes and some Tory votes, and she doesn’t dare do that. She ought to, because she’s the leader of the country. That is not leadership.’ Marr then noted that Kier Starmer had said that the six tests would be in the next Labour election manifesto and asked Thornberry to confirm this, to which she asked when the election would be, pointing out that an election manifesto in the next few weeks would be very different to one in a year’s time. She then said ‘In the next few months, what we would have in our manifesto is we would say: we have a vision for this country, we have a vision for Brexit. We know that the best way to proceed on this is to try to get a deal which is, as I’ve said several times, the model that I’ve put forward [Marr: ‘Six tests’] and with the six tests, and which is the six tests, and that’s what we would be working towards. And we would go in as pragmatists, and we would say to the European Union: the grown-ups have arrived and we’re no longer shouting at you, we’re going to sit down pragmatically and sort out something which is good for our economy and your economy.’ Marr pushed Thornberry further on one of the six tests , that which requires the ‘exact same benefits’ as membership of the Customs Union and Single Market, asking if there was a shred of evidence that the EU would contemplate that. Thornberry avoided this question, just saying that they had had meetings with the EU, who knew their position, but couldn’t negotiate with them as they were not the government. Marr pushed further, quoting Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Junker on how third countries can never have the same rights and benefits as full members. Thornberry again had no real answer other than to say that these were negotiating positions, and that May had put down unrealisable red lines and ‘ridiculous tests’, unlike Labour. She continued to reiterate the same stuff, then Marr claimed Labour had a ‘fantasy prospectus’ and there was no way of getting anything like what they wanted. After more vacillation from Thornberry, the interview turned to Trump and some domestic issues.
But I think this interview may be significant in many ways, notwithstanding the waffle and false claims about being able to obtain a deal (in reality, Labour would end up in a very similar situation to Theresa May, save for accepting the Custom’s Union). Thornberry is probably the sharpest politician on the Labour front bench, and clearly knows exactly what the brief is and what needs to be said. The fact that she mentioned a People’s Vote early in the interview is vital, even though she was careful not to return to the issue. The official Labour line is to want a general election. The chances of this are very slim (though not impossible if the government truly alienate the DUP over a border in the Irish Sea, to the point where the DUP would no longer support them in a confidence motion). But Labour have to stick to this line, which would be easily dismissed if they were vocal about supporting a second referendum. But Thornberry said that failing to get an election, they would campaign for a People’s Vote.
So I believe that Labour are talking down a second referendum in order to maintain their line, but do have plans to support it when it becomes inevitable. This could be soon – if a confidence motion is put and the government wins it, thus precluding an election. Of course it is also possible that Thornberry, Starmer and Corbyn are all putting out different lines publicly. I just hope this may have been co-ordinated.
There are many practical complications in bringing about a second referendum, which are explained in the UCL paper, but as this makes clear, it is possible, regardless of what Corbyn says. Labour could be acting more shrewdly than some imagine.