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Through all the twists and turns of life, you need something that consistently and unquestionably brings you back to the surface when you’ve been pushed into the darkest waters. For me, this force has always been music. It’s an art that goes beyond the most powerful novels and the most breath-taking speeches because it speaks when words fail. Music has guided me through the hardest times and given me strength when I thought all hope had gone. How it has continued to do this I cannot quite explain, but I always hoped that my choice to study it would help me to understand its power and influence and pass that appreciation on to other people. I chose the thriving arts department LICA at Lancaster University that seemed like an environment with a spark of creativity and a flashy new building with a music department that offered a huge spectrum of topics to study. Who’d have thought that by the middle of my degree that that image would be completely destroyed? For those of you that have heard about the travesty Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts have put on our plate, allow me to take you deeper into a pit of gradual failings.
My musical journey, however powerful it may have been for me emotionally, has always been tainted. At high school promises had been broken regarding new facilities and increased space and there was general feeling that music was constantly pushed aside. It seems that this curse has followed me, for LICA have not only not given us the 3rd floor space of the LICA building because they didn’t have the planning permission to finish it but they have also pushed us around expecting us to get what we are given. Modules such as Studio Technique, Performance and LICA 100 and 200 have caused problems for many students. Studio Technique is a core module for Music Technology students as is Performance for straight music students and both of these have been threatened. Performance no longer exists due to cuts in instrumental tuition and Studio Technique survived by the skin of its teeth thanks to the brave protest of students. LICA 100 and 200 are modules that all arts students have been forced to take which cover the power of the arts as a united force which despite being enjoyable to some extent have angered many students by being a waste of credits which could have been used to study their own field more intensely. We have constantly been living on the edge not knowing the next obscene direction our education was going to take.
The biggest change that is definitely a huge contributing factor to Music falling apart is the fact that a decision was made last year to fuse the three separate degree schemes – Music, Music Technology and Popular Music Studies- into one degree simply known as Music. This was done because there weren’t enough students studying each separate degree and it had to be done in order for the subject to survive. However, because students are now unable to specialise in this broad subject, this has surely been a huge reason behind why there are now hardly any applicants for the course at all. One might think that fusing three degrees together would give a student a vast amount of module choices and we’d be fighting for more credit space. I know that myself and many others however spent days wrestling with the module choices because we were practically forced to take modules we didn’t want to just to fill up space. A degree at a top ten university should be beyond satisfactory and we can hardly say that when we don’t even get to study the topics we’d like to after paying between £3000 and £9000 a year.
To top all this off we are now faced with redundancies for each and every one of our fantastic lecturers which means of course the end of the music degree beyond its current students. Not only that, but the current students will be affected with what could potentially be very bleak module choices with only three promised teaching positions next year. As if this wasn’t bad enough, a face to face meeting about the future of our degree wasn’t promised until week six and we received this vital information through insensitive emails. In addition, the lecturers were apparently not even present at the discussion that decided their fate and now both they and students are faced with uncomfortable uncertainty without even being in the driving seat.
From the start of this situation that could have been dealt with much more fairly we have been mistreated, pushed aside and undervalued, but it does not have to be this way. I hope that however strong your passions are for the subject, you will join me in voicing your disgust for what has unjustly happened to the high standard of education we have a right to receive. I do not and will never understand how LICA can call itself an arts institution without the dominant creative force of music – let’s speak up, stand up and wake them up to the beauty and power of this dying art form at Lancaster and give it back the life it deserves.