The Different Beats survey was designed and edited by Dr Helen Lancaster supported by the Australian Music Centre (AMC). A special issue of AMC’s journal Sounds Australian (No 64, 2005) focused on post-secondary options in music in Australia. It contains eighteen articles each deriving information on particular topics from the survey, preceded by Helen Lancaster’s editorial as guest editor of the issue, and her description of the survey.

The Music Council of Australia gratefully acknowledges Helen Lancaster’s and AMC’s permission to derive statistical tables from the survey results and publish them here. The survey is unique in its scope and contents and together with the original analysis in the Sounds Australian volume deserves the widest possible circulation.

There are two auxiliary files which can be opened in separate windows to allow concurrent reading with the main text. They are the statistical tables and the verbal responses that couldn’t be adequately summarised as statistics. HHG

Statistical Tables

The original use of the Different Beats survey was to provide material for each author represented in the special issue of Sounds Australian to comment on the basis of his or her professional experience. No attempt was made to present a set of analytical tables to “map” the general picture before tackling the “issues” (as this knowledge base tries to do as a general rule, whether in verbal or numerical form). The present article provides a statistical overview as a supplement to the original articles in the special issue.

As usual in the statistical section of the knowledge base, the tables are shown in a separate file.1 Readers will find it useful to open the file for reference as each table is mentioned. Click on the table numbers on the front page of the file to jump to individual tables.

The original survey results were organised with a separate Microsoft Word file for each question, showing the percentage of universities, TAFE and private colleges that responded, both relative to the total number asked to participate in the survey, and to the total number of institutions that actually responded. Individual responses were recorded in each file for all questions requesting verbal comments or descriptions.

Many of the questions were open-ended. Some of the responses to these questions could be fairly readily summarised. Others revealed such detail and variation that they need to be reproduced in full. This is done in another separate file (verbal responses)2 Use this for reference if you are generally going through the survey material. To jump to the responses to a particular question within the file, just click on the relevant page number in the front-page contents list.

If more detail is required on other questions, this is available according to Helen Lancaster’s editorial, which states: “With 100 questions in the survey, it is impossible to address them all in this journal. However, the primary issues are highlighted, and the data are available for those who seek the detail.”

The Survey

Different Beats is the largest and most extensive survey ever put to post-secondary music education and training providers in Australia. As stated above, it contains about 100 questions submitted by the eighteen authors represented in the special issue. The survey followed a smaller and less representative survey published in Sounds Australian,3 which demonstrates the commitment of the Australian Music Centre to help improve the knowledge of post-secondary music education in Australia. Helen Lancaster highlights some trends between the two surveys in her editorial.

The first step in planning the survey was to identify which Australian institutions offer awards in music at post-secondary level. Helen Lancaster and the Australian Music Centre came up with a total of 49: 30 universities, 14 TAFE colleges and five private providers. The actual response (Table 1) was 26 universities (87%), nine TAFE colleges (64%), and three private providers (60%). The overall response rate of 78% lends authority to the survey results, especially the university sector. Lancaster states in her description of the survey: “The results are conclusive, sketching a clear picture of the current status of post-secondary music education and training in Australia.”

For a brief history of developments in post-secondary education, especially over the past twenty years, see Lancaster’s editorial, and also her article in this knowledge base.

It may be seen as a possible weakness that the 2004 survey swelled to 100 questions, to meet the requirements of all the authors contributing to the special issue of Sounds Australian. There are indeed some inconsistencies both within and between topics (including response rates to individual questions), and some of the questions are complex, but Lancaster’s careful editing has done much to neutralise these, and the richness of the results speaks for itself.

A final note: The survey results do not reveal individual institutions but are of purely statistical interest. The institutions are nowhere mentioned by name and the lists of individual verbal responses have been randomised to secure anonymity.4

The order in which the survey results are presented here follows the somewhat complex sequence of the questionnaire, as set out in the table of contents for this article.


Each institution was asked to describe its core activities. This elicited a wide array of responses ranging from listing specific genres to broad aspirations – some of them verging on mission statements. The individual responses (to Question 1) are listed in the verbal responses file (click on the page number (1) in the contents list to jump to the responses). Suffice to say that the range of core activities and perceived missions is extremely wide, even within each of the two main groups of universities/conservatoria and TAFE vocational education colleges. It is impossible to determine from the survey, however, how wide the choice is for students in particular regions, or more generally between metropolitan areas and the rest of the country.

All 38 institutions that responded to the surveys listed the awards offered (Table 2). As already noted, 87% of universities, 64% of TAFE colleges and 60% of private providers identified as offering any post-secondary music awards, responded to the survey request. The 26 universities offered 197 awards including 84 undergraduate degrees, nine certificates (pre-tertiary), and 104 post-graduate doctoral and master’s degrees and graduate diplomas or certificates. Nine TAFE colleges offered 25 certificate courses and 18 undergraduate courses. The private providers mainly offered diplomas and pre-tertiary certificates.

Universities not surprisingly offered the largest average number of awards (almost eight), compared with less than five for TAFE colleges and less than three for the three private providers. The range was wide, especially in the universities of which three offered fourteen to eighteen different awards and one only one. The standard deviation shown in the bottom of Table 2 provides a crude measure of range – crude because the samples are too small to conform to a ‘normal’ statistical distribution. A standard deviation of four for the universities means that about 95% of observations “should” fall between nil at the lower extreme and sixteen at the upper end, given the average of eight.

Undergraduate university awards are with one exception (Associate Degree in Music) Bachelor degrees. These can be general (Bachelor of Arts, Music, Arts (Music), or Education (Music)) or specific, providing degrees such as Bachelor of Arts with bracketed subjects such as Contemporary Music, Music Industry, or Music Theatre, Bachelor of Creative Industries (Intermedia), or Bachelor of Music (Composition, or Music Education, or Music Technology, or Performance, or Popular Performance), or Bachelor of Jazz Studies or Electronic Arts. Adding an Honours degree is more likely to be specific, such as Bachelor of Music (with Honours in areas such as Accompaniment/Repetiteur, Community Music, Composition, Ethnomusicology, Orchestral Playing, or Performance). Finally, some universities offer joint degrees such as Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Music Studies, and Bachelor of Music combined with Bachelor of Commerce, Law, Education, Psychology, or Science). Such joint-degree programs are explored further in Question 3.

Post-graduate university awards show similarly wide ranges within the categories of graduate certificates and diplomas, master’s and doctoral degrees. Vocational qualifications through the TAFE system show less variation, partly because the award system is standardised through VET (Vocational Education and Training) programs. However, as Helen Lancaster points out in her MCA knowledge base paper, TAFE/VET has had a positive impact on articulating the music education system by providing links between school, TAFE and university education (articulation denotes the linking of study paths between different levels of educational institutions).

The full list of awards can be perused in a separate window. According to Question 3, 69% of responding universities, 11% of TAFE colleges and 33% of private providers offered joint programs with other disciplines and institutions. Some are listed in the List of awards file. The responses themselves are listed in the verbal responses file (jump to the right page by clicking the appropriate page link, 3, in the contents list). Several combine bachelor studies in music and teaching/education. Two describe dual sector/articulation arrangements with TAFE. Other cross-overs at university level are with technology, commerce, law, creative arts, and informatics. One university mentions its Bachelor of Electronic Arts as a cross-disciplinary program taught by staff from its music and fine arts areas.

Graduate Destinations

Question 4 of Different Beats established that 85% or 22 of the 26 responding universities formally tracked graduate destinations but only one TAFE college and one private provider did so. The follow-up question, 5, asked the institutions to indicate careers ‘in which you are able to confirm your graduates have been placed.” (Table 3). It was answered by 92% or all but two of the universities, 78% of TAFE colleges and all three responding private colleges. This suggests that knowledge may be obtained even if there are no formal tracking systems for graduate destinations (though one may guess that the quality of the informal information is lower).

Taking all 34 responding institutions as a group, performance is the most common music-related destination (mentioned by 88%), followed by all forms of music teaching (82%), administration and management (68%), music recording and audio engineering (59%), and composition (44%). Smaller groups include production, music retail, and further education, each with between 26% and 21% of responding institutions, followed by music therapy, sound design, music research, and music journalism between 18% and 12%, and music librarianship (6%).

There was also a large ‘all other’ group (53% of responding institutions), including a variety of destinations such as music publishing, radio, TV and video production, the music industry, opera and music theatre production, music management, instrument making, DJs, music lawyers, and marketing and production.


This group of questions starts with a general open-ender (Q 6): ‘How is technology used in your courses?’ Nineteen universities (73%) responded that they used information and other technology in a variety of ways, as shown in the file of verbal responses (jump from the front-page contents list to page 5 through the link). Some universities called the study of technology mandatory or an essential component of both teaching and research. Three relatively elaborate responses follow (but the list should be studied in full to avoid bias):

  • “State of the arts facilities are being created for the study and use of multimedia, media arts and manipulation of technologies in film, light, sound, computer graphics, music composition, video and data projection. We use all of the above in the creation and realisation of performance on campus. Students have access to computer labs, software, instrumentation and equipment for the preparation of project work.”
  • “Students have access to extensive audio-visual recording and production facilities including non-linear sound and video digital editing suites as well as CD, CD-ROM and DVD authoring. These facilities make it possible for students to prepare work for dissemination via public performances, broadcasts, internet, CD, CD-ROM and DVD.”
  • “An introductory technology unit is compulsory for all students. Other music technology is integral to the various specialisations. For example composition students are taught the various technologies that are central to their field (e.g. sequencing, synthesis, hard-disk recording and editing, synchronisation to film and video etc). Music production students focus on recording and live sound. Performers focus on technology relevant to their instrument or voice.”

The next question (7) asked whether all students were instructed in use of technology, and if yes, how? Of 24 universities responding to this question, 19 (the same number that answered Question 6) said yes, two said ‘no but ..’ (.. “a range of technology courses are offered”, and “except all students can choose to study recording technology and techniques”), and three said plainly ‘no’ (13%). All eight responding TAFE colleges instructed all students in the use of technology, while one private college said yes, and another ‘no but ..’ (.. “most do it at some stage as an elective”). The individual responses are shown in the verbal responses file (jump from contents list to page 7). The instructions range from introductory courses in equipment use to preparations for full music technology courses. Again, the responses should be studied in full to minimise the risk of obtaining biased impressions. Some are elaborate, especially number 18 in the university list.

Table 4 summarises the subject of student access to technology, starting with Question 7 already discussed above. Students at all universities and private colleges had access to information technology as well as most TAFE students (five of seven colleges responding to the question, with one other TAFE college providing access for specialist students only). Large majorities, especially among the universities, also provided access to specialist music software, and to hardware.

Music was a prerequisite for entry into any music technology program at 42% of universities (11 of 26 responding) and a minority of TAFE and private providers (two of nine and one of three, respectively). However, these responses may correlate better with institutions offering formal music technology courses. Later in the survey (Question 69, see verbal responses file, page 35) we find that 17 universities, seven TAFE colleges and three private providers provided a verbal answer to the question, “What do you consider to be the distinguishing feature(s) of your program(s)/course(s) in music technology?” However, the individual responses suggest that ‘grey areas’ exist, illustrated by one institution’s statement that “we have more music technology than anyone else but do not teach it formally at undergraduate level”. It is unclear both at university and TAFE level whether technology is always taught formally or is just a creative tool included in courses such as composition or recording.

Only 13 universities, three TAFE colleges and two private providers said yes to Question 70: “Do your music technology programs/courses allow for specialisation?” Compare this with 11 universities, two TAFE colleges and one private provider responding to Question 9 asking whether music is a prerequisite for entry. There is at least a suggestion that half or less of the surveyed institutions answered these questions only if they provided separate music technology courses. So while technology permeate the courses, this may happen to a large extent through the provision of software and hardware in the course of general teaching rather than special technology courses.

Research Areas

The main research areas offered at university level in 2003, when the survey was taken, were musicology and performance/creative practice (88% each), composition (81%), technology and music education (73% each), and ethnomusicology (62%). About two-thirds of the universities also offered a wide range of other research areas shown in a footnote to Table 5. The areas were available as research in universities mainly at PhD (88% of institutions), Masters (81%) and Honours (77%) level.

The number of TAFE and private providers offering research opportunities was much smaller – one or possibly two in either group (there is a possible inconsistency in the survey responses between the question on research fields and the question asking where the fields are available as research).

One other expression of the level of research in the music area is the number of faculty members holding terminal (doctoral) degrees (Table 6) – persons who are potentially available as research supervisors. Eighteen of the 26 universities responding to the survey reported a total of 120 persons, 40% of whom did doctorates in musicology, 16% in composition, 10% in ethnomusicology, and 7% each in performance and music education.

Twenty percent didn’t specify the field. Assuming their fields were distributed like those specified, musicology rises to account for almost half (48%) of total persons.

There was only one person with a terminal degree in the TAFE colleges, compared with eight in the two private providers who responded to the question. Their average of four per institution, while way ahead of the TAFE colleges, still falls short of the average of 6.7 for the 18 universities that responded.

The overwhelming proportion of those with terminal degrees (88%) were PhDs, with the remaining 12% spread over six other titles, of which 5% of total degrees were specifically music-related (DMus and DMusA).

Delivery Modes and Group Teaching

Sixteen universities and two TAFE colleges (62% and 22%, respectively) reported that they had flexible delivery mechanisms in their current delivery practices (Table 7). The individual responses listed under Question 14 (jump from contents reference page 10 in the verbal responses file) show a wide variety of methods including online courses, web delivery, course material on DVD or CD-ROM, video conferencing, email, and other means of providing distance education. Please refer to these detailed responses for a balanced view.

Twelve of the universities and one TAFE college reported on the proportion of music programs and courses offered by distance education. The findings are listed in the bottom of Table 7. They vary widely, with the proportion of programs and courses available for distance education both ranging from 100% to nil. Eight universities (31%) compared results and retention rates between on-campus and distance education: half found no difference, two reported on-campus education was superior and two couldn’t say. Hardly an indictment against distance education, especially in view of the responses to the next question reported below.

Seventeen universities (65%) and two other institutions described the benefits or gains from using flexible delivery mechanisms. The individual answers are in the verbal responses file (page 11). They generally stress advantages of flexibility such as students being able to study at their own pace, enabling non-metropolitan students to participate, higher retention rates for students who for some reason are no longer able to use the on-campus option, benefiting students who work and study concurrently, and making learning more accessible and allowing students to use a variety of delivery modes which promotes better understanding and involvement.

Group teaching is an significant part of performance training for major vocal or instrumental work for most institutions – 65% of universities and 72% of all respondents (Table 8). Only one of 23 universities found it not important. The actual responses to Question 18 (page 12 in the verbal responses file) suggest that most of the group or team teaching occurs in ensemble work and performance practice, masterclasses and instrumental and vocal tuition generally.

Two-thirds of the institutions described the standard format and desired learning outcomes from group teaching (Question 19, verbal response file page 14). This once again shows how expansive and variable post-secondary music education is in Australia. The responses concentrate on formats in particular institutions rather than on desired outcomes, though one university notes that students develop a scholarly, analytical research basis towards the practical performance of music. Another notes that group instruction is necessary in chamber music and other ensembles as part of the task for students to learn to listen and learn from others.

One university combines the advantage of classroom teaching, group learning and flexible delivery as follows:

1:1 is necessary for instrumental/vocal learning, particularly in dealing with the complex and slowly acquired technical and musical demands of performing. Masterclasses with visitors are offered to expand students’ knowledge of the profession and to increase the range of teaching expertise available to students. Group instruction is necessary in ensembles (chamber music etc) as part of the task for students is to learn to listen to others and to learn from others.

Classroom teaching offers potential for student verbal interaction and group learning of concepts as well as specific skills such as analysis. Flexible delivery via on-line technology offers students the means of interacting with teachers at any hour of the day/night. The submission of homework and the return of same at the student or teacher’s discretion is beneficial to all. It tends to make a lot more work for the teacher but benefits the student greatly.

Please read the full range of responses to limit bias of understanding.

There was a fair spread of opinion about the extent promotion of group teaching benefited major study students. About one-third of respondents found it significant, another one-third found it had some influence. One-quarter found it of limited significance and a small proportion (6%) to be of no importance. The detailed answers to the question (20) are in the verbal responses file. Click on the reference page 17 on the front page of the file.

The last question on group teaching (21) concerns training opportunities offered to teaching staff (Table 8, panel D). Almost half the 22 responding institutions of all kinds (45%) said what could only be interpreted as ‘none’ or ‘minimal’, 14% as ‘limited’, 27% as ‘some’ and only 9% as ‘significant’. One institution didn’t know.

The 15 universities responding to the question offered relatively better training opportunities in group teaching, interpreted from the verbal responses as 33% ‘none/minimal’, 13% ‘limited’, 40% ‘some’, and 13% ‘significant’.

The third related topic under this heading is peer assessment (Table 9). Twenty institutions reported that peer assessment is contained in any course that has musical practice as its main focus, including 14 universities (54%), three TAFE colleges (33%), and all three private providers.

Peer assessment is mainly specific to performance: 16 responses of a total of 23 given by 19 institutions. Feedback is structured and implemented mainly through feedback sessions (15 of 21 respondents), with critique sheets or report forms accounting for two, informal feedback for one, and other responses for three. Helen Lancaster, however, points out in her description (About the survey) that “whilst data are largely positive, the detail indicates that most institutions conduct such assessment on an informal basis. Only two institutions actually incorporate it into the final assessment process.”

Generic Issues

The next part of the Different Beats survey (Questions 25 to 34) refers to a variety of subjects termed ‘generic’. They include interactions with graduate destinations, ability of music education courses to sustain a musical career, attitudes to repertoire creation versus repertoire repetition, the role of the post-secondary music institution in the local community, and impact of funding issues.

Question 25 explored how the institutions interacted with graduate destinations. The verbal responses file (page 19) shows individual answers, which have been summarised as far as possible in Table 10. Thirteen of 32 responding institutions (41%) said they liaised in a variety of ways with prospective employers, while five (16%) used surveys, two (6%) relied on alumni organisations, and 12 (38%) provided other answers. The detail is best gauged by reading through the verbal responses. Question 26 asked whether the interaction with graduate destinations had changed in the last 10 years, to which 59% said yes (70% of universities and 67% of private providers but only 17% of TAFE colleges). The question didn’t specify the direction of change.

Question 27 asked to which extent the courses assisted students in sustaining a musical career (Table 11). Responses to this question included all but one of the 26 universities who responded at all, as well as six of nine TAFE colleges and all three private providers. Most institutions emphasised the development of career skills and industry focus, and smaller numbers the value of their accredited courses or the recognised quality of the courses.

The verbal responses to Q 27 have not been reproduced but are available according to Helen Lancaster’s editorial. Not unexpectedly, the institutions’ descriptions of their own courses are almost all highly positive. Three of the more detailed responses, generally classified as ‘other’ in Table 11, are reproduced below:

  • “Graduates of higher education should be equipped to utilise their talents to a high standard of practice, coupled with a spirit of enquiry and a critical language. They should be capable of creating their own performance opportunities from scratch, and have some awareness of industry structures in labour and industry, finance, management and producing. They should be alert to the cultural and political context of their art practice. Students learn to understand and assess the history of their art form, and should be able to multi-skill in order to achieve longevity in the field. In addition, they should learn a safe physical and vocal approach to the work. All of these skills and insights should encourage a sense of reality about the nature of work in the performing Arts. Undergraduates are equipped to undertake higher studies in their field.”
  • “As the courses are contemporary in their focus, they deal with material in the context of the landscape of contemporary arts practice. Much emphasis is based on producing self-sufficient graduates who are able to effectively operate in an independent fashion within the contemporary employment marketplace. Some element of professional practice is present in all degrees, as is the requirement to engage in community based projects. A balance of written and practical skills is developed and all students have a guaranteed basic fluency in technology.”
  • “Very difficult to say. We attempt to offer sufficient help in “self help” to all students. It is clear in all our teaching (I believe) that all current students will need to be life-long learners and will need to “add into” their knowledge over the course of their careers. It is also clear to all students that in order to earn an income they will probably (99% of them) need to be flexible in what they can do. The best of them will play in a professional orchestra; the majority of them will gain their income from several sources. This is made clear to them all of the time in their courses, hence the inclusion of a great deal of “technology” in our programs.”

On the question of whether repertoire creation should be encouraged rather than the repetition or reproduction of repertoire, most favoured encouraging creation (Table 12). Fifty-nine percent of responses did so, with another 31% favouring a balance of creation and repetition. Only two institutions favoured repertoire repetition over creation (6%).

Post-secondary music education institutions see themselves as having a strong role in their local communities (Table 13). Eighty-two percent placed significant emphasis on that role, especially among universities (92%) and private providers (100%), compared with 44% of TAFE colleges. Five of six institutions said the level of emphasis had increased during the last 10 years, again especially among universities and private providers with 88% and 100%, respectively (compared with 57% of TAFE colleges, and one TAFE college reporting a decrease).

How institutions relate to their local communities takes a range of forms, of which the most frequent are provision of on-campus events (89%), public hire of their facilities and getting involved with local arts authorities (both 87%), providing off-campus events (79%), participation in local or state festivals (76%), and provision of non-tertiary programs (74%).

The final topic in this section is the impact of funding issues (Table 14). The question was, “In what ways (if at all) has your institution been affected by funding issues?” The most frequent responses were a need to raise non-government funding (76% of all institutions, but 88% of universities), need to recruit fee-paying students (71% of all, 81% of universities), and difficulty in maintaining resources (68% of all, 81% of universities). Other impacts included staff reductions (58% of all and 58% of universities), increased emphasis on research programs (55% overall, 77% of universities), and reduction of programs (37% of all, 35% of universities). TAFE colleges seemed to have less problems with funding issues, except in relation to staff reductions (67%) and reductions of programs (56%).

Gender Statistics

The Different Beats survey was generally relatively unconcerned with conventional statistics but did inquire into matters such as gender ratios (and the number of post-graduates as shown in Table 18, described in a subsequent section). Twenty-two institutions, predominantly universities (19) provided 68 observations on student intake, and 33 on graduates. Several institutions were unable to provide the statistics, especially among TAFE colleges.

Table 15 shows a median female ratio of total student intake of 51% (52% for universities taken alone). As shown in the footnote to the table, the numbers are built up of ratios for particular fields within each institution in a recent year (2002 or 2003) and are associated with fairly substantial standard deviations because some of the total numbers of students or graduates would have been small. No institution reported absolute numbers of males and females rather than gender ratios.

The number of observations for graduates was smaller and the female ratios were larger (60%), but with an even more substantial standard deviation (28%). The main conclusion is that females are probably in a slight overall majority both among students and graduates. It should be possible to develop more decisive statistics on this.


Questions 36 to 39 explore relationships and partnerships. Table 16 shows that 61% of all institutions (77% of universities) had formal relationships with other disciplines within the same institution, and 39% (46% of universities) with other disciplines outside the institution. There was also extensive relationships with other music institutions locally (63%), nationally (45%), and internationally (69%), again with the highest findings for universities. Other liaisons were with professional music organisations (58% of institutions) and commercial organisations (47%). Half the institutions said the relationships were designed to provide vocational experience. The vast majority of universities (96%) saw an increase in these vocational experience relationships over the past ten years, while only half the responding TAFE colleges thought there had been such an increase.

An open-ended question, 38, explored what relationships had been designed to improve vocational experience. Individual responses are listed in the verbal responses file (jump by clicking on page 21 in the contents list on the front page). The main impression is of a range of practical vocational arrangements with performance companies and commercial companies including studios, music retailers and others. Several institutions mention exchange and other arrangements with overseas institutions. Two universities, one TAFE and one private college mentioned articulation arrangements. For full detail please refer to the individual responses.

Asked whether they encouraged and supported collaborative cross-artform work, 69% of universities, 44% of TAFE colleges and two of the three private providers answered in the affirmative. In total, 63% of all responding institutions reported that the encouraged and supported collaborate cross-artform work (Table 17).

Responding institutions doing so were asked to describe the teaching and research practices, human resources and facilities supporting cross-artform collaboration. Such practices take place at both undergraduate and post-graduate level and was described in great detail, difficult to summarise, in the verbal responses file (jump to page 23 from front page).

The institutions were also asked to describe the essential elements that in their opinion underpin a successful collaborative project from both a commercial and educational perspective. This brought up virtues like clear goals, careful organisation, flexibility, cooperation, dedication, common purpose, teamwork, creativity, lateral thinking, open minds, and as one institution put it, the right to fail. Again, please refer to the actual list in the verbal responses file, page 25.

Post-Graduate and Total Enrolments

Apart from gender ratios, the survey asked each institution about the total number of post-graduates. Twenty-two universities provided adequate answers. Table 18 shows the total number there to be 906, or an average of 41 per university. The median was 34, with a range of post-graduates from three to 119. The standard deviation was 35, suggesting a skewed distribution across a wide range.

The survey asked another useful question about the ratio of post-graduates to total enrolments, which made it possible to estimate (albeit loosely) total enrolments in these 22 universities (just over 6,000). It has not been possible at this stage to compare this estimate with other statistics, but the survey suggests that few post-graduate students may be found in other music-related post-secondary institutions. No TAFE college reported any, while one private provider indicated one post-graduate in 2003 rising to eight in 2004.

Expanding the estimate for 22 universities to the total number of universities offering music awards (30 according to Table 1) suggests total enrolments in the order of 8,000 or slightly higher, assuming that the averages found in the survey apply to the non-responding universities too.

The survey finally asked how many post-graduates were from the institution itself. The answer was 369, or 41% of total post-graduates. The average and median observations were higher at 47% and 48%, respectively.

Research – General

Research is clearly a university function. Ninety-two percent of responding universities stimulated research activities, compared with only one TAFE and one private college (Table 19). Helen Lancaster as editor of the survey points out that research is not a normal expectation of TAFE institutions. It is appropriate, therefore, to concentrate on universities. The way these institutions support and organise their research activities is through research centres (35%), individual research (73%), with university (77%) and/or private support (23%). Fifty percent of the universities received Commonwealth grants, 23% State grants, and 23% industry grants.

Activities that could be defined as practice-based research were reported by 81% of the universities, action research by 41%, research into artistic practice by 85%, and artistic practice as research by 77%.

The research overwhelmingly reflects changes in the musical and educational environment, with positive responses from 88% of universities (and from two of the three private providers). Individual responses are shown in the verbal responses file, page 27. Responses vary from ‘very strongly’, ‘extensively’ and ‘completely’ to ‘only at research level’. The most elaborate response follows (but the whole list should be read to provide unbiased context):

  • “Individual lecturers are free to pursue their own contemporary research interests, including the making and curation of new work. Recent curriculum changes in the area of critical studies in (specific forms) have been introduced in order to cover study of developments in critical theory. Contemporary writers and composers … have been invited onto the campus to create new work with undergraduate students, in the expectation that their views are contemporary and represent best practice.”

Early Childhood Education

Early childhood and pre-service music education (Table 20) was offered by 27% of the university music schools, but this underestimates the total university involvement because it excludes 35% of universities where it was offered by the school or faculty of education. Helen Lancaster notes in About the survey: “Some institutions acknowledged programs available in Faculties of Education, others noted shared or combined degrees, only a few music departments having the early childhood or pre-service music programs specified by the questions. Some respondents equated early childhood music questions with community classes targeting young children. Had the survey also been sent to Faculties and Departments of Education, the figures may have been different.”


Keyboard, instrumental and vocal pedagogy was offered as a formalised course by a large majority of institutions: 73% of universities, 67% of TAFE colleges and all three private providers (total 74%). It was offered at undergraduate level in 63% of institutions, and at post-graduate level at 24%. It was optional in 42% and compulsory in 37% of the institutions. This adds to more than 74% of all institutions because in a few institutions it was optional in some courses and compulsory in others. (Table 21)

Western Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Western musicology was offered to undergraduate students by 58% of universities and to graduate students by 62% (Table 22, Question 55). Two of nine TAFE colleges and one private provider also offered it to undergraduates. The subject, however, seems to have become less popular over the five years leading up to the survey: only 15% of universities said demand had increased, 55% that it remained the same, and 30% that it had decreased. Including TAFE and private colleges, the ratios change to 12% increasing, 56% remaining unchanged, and 32% declining.

Ethnomusicology research is overwhelmingly a university activity with 22 of 23 institutions responding (Table 23). Asked what percentage of its research focused on ethnomusicological issues, the universities showed a range from nil to 75%. Eight universities reported nil research into ethnomusicology (36%), which suggests that the subject is researched in 16 universities. The median proportion of total research going to ethnomusicology was 7%, the average of 16 being biased upwards by a few large percentages (three at 50 and one at 75).

The related question (58) of what percentage of your research post-graduate students were in the field of ethnomusicology showed similar results as reported in the lower panel of Table 23.

Question 56 supports the notion that ethnomusicology research takes place in 16 of the 26 universities responding to the survey. In the 16 universities, the main subject matter was Asian music (56% of universities) and Australian Indigenous music (44%). Table 24 shows further detail.

Training Issues

The subject of vocational versus academic training is covered by Questions 59 and 60. The first question asked respondents how they saw music industry skills-based training and academic training coexisting in a tertiary music training context. The question was answered by 77% of the responding universities, 56% of TAFE colleges and all three private providers. Most said that it is important and possible to integrate the two, but a few found it difficult. See the verbal responses file, page 30, for detail.

The second question was, “What is the best mechanism for appropriate industry input to the music curriculum?” The verbal responses file (page 32) suggests that the responding institutions thought mainly in terms of popular music genres. Suggestions included involving industry practitioners, involvement in the education sector, industry feedback through various mechanisms, industry partnerships, and graduate destinations feedback. One of the TAFE colleges referred to the then new Music Industry Training Package CUS01, which set out 14 qualifications ranging from Certificate I through to Advanced Diploma.

One conservatorium addressed the question from a classical music angle:

  • “In Classical Music it is already there. Teaching staff are (or have been – should have been) leading professional performers in solo and orchestral music. It’s really a rhetorical question. A conservatorium (in its traditional role) has the primary responsibility to teach students to play their instrument. Playing in an orchestra cannot do that and must come later or be introduced carefully and simultaneously. Orchestra is an essential supplement to what is primary. It is the same with voice. Students have to be able to sing before they can aspire to doing various professional singing activities. At the UG level Conservatoires are concerned with the primary technical and musicianship levels.”

Question 61 addresses the issue of ‘traditional’ vocal and instrumental training, asking what percentage of programs focused on this. Twenty-five of the institutions, reasonably well spread across the three types, responded, of which 21 provided percentages that could be included in a statistical analysis (Table 26). The average observation for 14 universities was 42%, the median 40%, but the spread was wide from nil to 100%, as reflected in a large standard deviation (34 percentage points).

The seven responding TAFE and private colleges tended to devote more time to these pursuits, so the average for the total sample of 21 institutions rises to 48% and the median observation to 50%. The standard deviation also rises, to 38 percentage points. In conclusion, there is great variety in the amount of time that post-secondary music institutions devote to ‘traditional’ vocal and instrumental training.

Pre-tertiary training (Table 27) was probably offered by 50% of the institutions, with most offering both instrumental and vocal pre-tertiary training (47%). Training in improvised forms was offered by 26% and music technology by 32%, including one additional TAFE college that didn’t offer the other forms. Hence, 19 of the 38 institutions would have offered some pre-tertiary training.


Seventy-six percent of institutions responding to the survey indicated that they offer contemporary popular music (81% of universities and two-thirds of TAFE and private colleges as shown by Table 28). A minority (31% of universities and 34% of all respondents) said their courses focused on a particular type (or types) of professional contemporary music practice, while the balance said they didn’t.

The editor (Lancaster) added that some qualified their answers, but the outcome seems fairly clear: more institutions did not focus on particular contemporary music practice, than those who did. As far as the latter are concerned, they were asked a further question to establish whether they focused on a particular type (or particular types) of professional music practice, such as bands writing original material looking for success as recording artists. This question (65) pushed the boundaries of what is possible to establish through mainstream survey design, though one responding university made a distinction as follows: “Yes (as part of a broader specific course), but NO focus on a particular type.” Despite the instruction to respond only if they answered yes to the previous question, a net figure of slightly more respondents eventuated (38% of universities and 42% of total respondents).

Responses to Question 65, with editorial notes by Lancaster, are shown in the verbal responses file, page 34 (jump from listed page number on front page of file).

Three questions (66-68) relate to jazz courses (Table 29). The first question asked how important it was to provide empirical data to graduate destinations from undergraduate jazz programs and transfers into higher award programs such as Masters or PhD. It was answered by 69% of universities, 89% of TAFE colleges and all three private providers (76% overall), suggesting that jazz is an important subject. However, a majority of respondents (69%) suggested that empirical data were not required, while 21% thought it was very important, and 10% that it was moderately important.

The second question was: “In the context of blurring lines between musical genres and the changing nature of employment opportunities, what relevance does your institution place on jazz studies courses?” Verbatim answers are available from the editor Helen Lancaster as previously indicated, but have been summarised in Table 29. The vast majority of institutions (89%) thought jazz courses had some relevance, whereas 11% (all universities) thought they had none.

In answer to the third jazz question (“Should a jazz performance program in 2004 base its repertoire and teaching philosophy on the American jazz repertoire in the first half of the 20th century?”) only 11% said yes: three universities and a TAFE college.

Music Technology, Again

Technology was the subject of Question 6 of the survey, which raised issues of consistency to which we refer. Questions 69 to 71 explore music technology as such. The institutions were first asked what were the distinguishing features of their music technology programs and courses (Q 69). The answers to that qualitative open-ended question are shown in the verbal responses file, page 35. Industry applicability and relevance provided one theme, reflected in several responses. Others stressed state-of-the-art technical facilities such as digital recording studios and industry-standard hardware and software generally. Yet others related technology as being particularly relevant to music teaching. As in previous descriptions, it is desirable for the reader to gain his or her own unbiased impression by perusing the full list.

In total, 71% of institutions responded to Question 69 (65% of universities, 78% of TAFE colleges and all three private providers). However, only 45% affirmed that their music technology programs and courses allow for specialisation (Table 30), which raised the earlier question whether responses refer to formal technology courses or generally to the use of technology within the music school. The former seems to be the case judging from the fairly low response to Questions 70 and 71.

Be that as it may, composition leads in the specialisation stakes with 44% of those institutions allowing for specialisation providing it, compared with 38% for music production, 25% for recording, 13% for computer music, and 6% each for programming, music publishing, research, multimedia, and cross-disciplinary practice. Universities accounted for the bulk of these observations.

Question 72 asked whether the institution’s music technology programs and courses distinguished between performance and composition. Only ten institutions responded, with one university reported by the editor as saying “no, it’s a largely irrelevant and artificial split”. For those who did provide the split, the average share of composition was 70% and the median share 79% (Question 73). The range in composition’s share was between 30% and 90%, with a fairly wide standard deviation of 23 percentage points.

A larger number of institutions responded to Question 74: “What is the ratio between technology programs/courses devoted to technical issues such as learning the technology, and musical issues such as aesthetics?” The question elicited replies from 62% of universities, 78% of TAFE colleges and all three private providers (overall response rate 68%). Details are in Table 31, lower panel. The median and average observations are very much down the middle, with perhaps a slight edge to technical issues over musical issues. The standard deviation was fairly low (14 percentage points), mainly because many institutions gave a ‘fifty-fifty’ response.

Sound Art

Thirty-two percent of institutions offered units including sound art practice, 47% including sound theory, 39% including sound design, and 34% including sound culture (Table 32). Sixty-three percent of the institutions offered these units in their own music department, 31% in another department and 6% in cooperation with another department. It appears that all sound art courses included practical studio work.

Few institutions made use of the Australian Sound Design Project run by the University of Melbourne (Table 33). Only 13% said they did. This of course may have changed since 2003 when the survey was conducted.

Screen Composition

Questions 80 to 83 explored special courses devoted to screen composition (Table 34). Forty-five percent of all responding institutions (46% of universities) offered such courses. All but two of those universities offered students hands-on experience in screen composition, so this experience was available in 38% of universities and 39% of all responding institutions. Of these, 53% provided dedicated studios, 60% access to studios, and 33% time-share studios. All these institutions offered instruction in composition, 73% in orchestration, 67% in the history of film, and 27% (four universities) in dramaturgy.

Arts Management

This subject (Table 35) was taught by 58% of the responding institutions (54% of universities, 56% of TAFE colleges and all three private providers). These programs were mainly incorporated into existing programs (71% of institutions).

The last arts management question explored what key areas the responding institutions would incorporate if they were designing a post-graduate arts management program. The question (86) was answered by 37% of the responding institutions. The verbatim responses are shown in the verbal responses file, page 37. Based on the responses, the blueprint would include small business management, music marketing and promotion, music and contract law, project management, audience development, web design, human resource management, accountancy, strategic management, corporate communication, and many others. Other perspectives that might be incorporated according to respondents include work experience, negotiating, organising and organisational structure, and global perspectives, entrepreneurship and innovation, event management and funding.

Australian Indigenous Music

The last several questions to be described here (87-94) concern Indigenous music at post-secondary level. All the survey findings, including individual comments, are shown in Table 36. The lack of post-secondary teaching facilities has been analysed, from the survey, by Jennifer Newsome of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) at the University of Adelaide, regarded as the leading educational body of its kind in Australia.5 The role in this general analysis of the Different Beats survey is the more modest one of presenting the raw evidence from the survey.

Readers should note Helen Lancaster’s remark on the Indigenous music content of the survey (in About the survey): “[R]esponses are from mainstream rather than specifically Indigenous providers. The data therefore identify only what is happening in mainstream institutions, principally the universities.” Jennifer Newsome agrees, noting that a low TAFE response to this part of the survey is partly due to the exclusion from the survey of targeted TAFE-level Indigenous providers. It may be noted that research to establish the importance if such providers has yet to be done, and it doesn’t exonerate university-level neglect of this part of the Australian music sector, and its composers and performers.

With these provisos, Table 36 shows:

  • Half the responding universities reported having Indigenous students in their courses, plus two of the nine TAFE colleges
  • Twenty-three percent of universities and one private provider offered Indigenous programs
  • Styles offered, as nominated by 19% of universities and one private provider, tended to fall into ethnomusicological categories, including Aboriginal music
  • Two universities (8%) said that students were required to perform their original compositions or songs as part of the formal curriculum
  • Two universities (8%), one TAFE college and two private providers (13% of all responding institutions) said that students are taught to sing or perform traditional Indigenous music and dance as part of the formal teaching program
  • Eighteen percent of the responding institutions responded to the question: “To what long-term outcomes do you hope your program will contribute?” The underlying theme seems to be an increased understanding of and support for Indigenous music. The verbatim responses are shown in Table 36
  • Slightly fewer institutions (16%) responded to the question: “What cultural sources do your teaching programs draw from in meeting your curriculum needs?” Three universities and the one TAFE college pointed to significant relationships with Indigenous communities or connections. The private provider mentioned the Australian Music Centre
  • Finally, the same institutions (16%) generally rejected the view that the primary aim of the teaching program was industry training, though there were several variations on that them as shown in the bottom of Table 36.

In conclusion, Indigenous music according to Different Beats is a neglected area in Australian post-secondary music education – a conclusion which is entirely in line with Jennifer Newsome’s paper in the special issue of Sounds Australian in 2004.


Helen Lancaster conceived, designed and published the original survey in Sounds Australian, No 64, 2005. Further analysis and description by Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Last updated 24 January 2008.


  3. Sounds Australian No 60, 2002.↩︎
  4. Since we are purely interested in the statistical aspects in this article, it need not concern us here that by providing answers to the first twelve questions the institutions agreed to have information relating to these questions published in a form that identified them. For instance, Question 12 asked for the identity of faculty members with terminal degrees to be included in a database accessible by institutions seeking potential assessors of graduate dissertations. The remaining 80-odd questions were all given on a confidential basis.↩︎

Dr. Helen Lancaster offers advisory services to higher music education institutions, music teachers and arts organisations. She is a former Chair of the Music Council of Australia, and a Research Fellow at Queensland Conservatorium of Music. For the MCA she established the National Instrument Bank in 2008, and the Australian Youth Music Council in 2009. With a team of distinguished researchers, she undertook the audit of Post-Secondary Music Education and Training published with further analysis in this knowledge base as Music Study in Australia.

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