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The closure of Oxford Brookes’ music department

20th November 2023

We are extremely concerned to read of the proposed closure, in 2026, of the music programme at Oxford Brookes University, and the immediate suspension of its degrees to recruitment.  

This highly respected and valued department has supported and trained many key musicians and musicologists throughout its 44-year history as well as teachers, practitioners, and advocates for music. University Music departments are a vital part of the music education ecology and this decision, together with past closures and current rumours of more to come, will have a significant impact on both the music education sector and the wider music industry. 

At a time when music education is being highlighted by the government through the publication of both a Model Music Curriculum and subsequently a refreshed National Plan for Music Education, with further reinforcement of its importance by Ofsted in their recent Music Subject Report, the systematic removal of training post 18 is counterintuitive. Universities provide an essential role in training those who wish to enter the profession – a profession which UK Music reported as currently employing over 210,000 people.  

The government’s National Plan states ‘The UK is home to world-leading specialist music provision, at school and higher education level’ – to close university departments will erode this provision. Whilst it is recognised that pathways into the music industry include many routes, the industry recognises the value for young people to continue their musical education beyond 18 through university study. We believe that accessible and excellent musical learning and engagement inspires and enriches young people’s lives. In addition, it is important to understand that the value of music departments at universities is also in the wider work of the staff within them who contribute to the research and development of music. Oxford Brookes is a leading light in that research and development work and to lose them from the network will be devastating. 

We would urge the Vice-Chancellor and the Board of Governors at Oxford Brookes University to reconsider their decision, reflecting on the impact it will have for those young people who were hoping to study at the respected institution and on the research which would have contributed to our understanding of music and its value to society. Whilst discussions are going on, we would suggest a pause of the immediate closure to any future intake.