Skip to content

Facilitating the Transition from Student to Professional through Instrumental Teacher Education: A Case Study with Main Reference to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Added to website 08/08/2022. Updated 07/09/2023.

Doctoral research undertaken by Luan Shaw, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University. Amongst the research participants were senior leaders from 66 Music Education Hubs.

This doctoral research undertaken across 2018-21 involved senior leaders from 66 MEHs who provided valuable insights to inform HE providers how best to prepare students for instrumental teaching careers. Other perspectives relating to conservatoire study and curricula were gathered from conservatoire academics, RBC students and alumni. Thank you to all who contributed. The study was undertaken and completed before the publication of NPME2, but seems pertinent in light of the NPME2 recommendations for workforce development.


A skilled music education workforce is essential to ensure longevity of music-making for future generations of young learners. According to the Review of Music Education in England (Henley, 2011), conservatoires have a responsibility to contribute to this workforce development. However, little is yet known about how undergraduate conservatoire students learn to teach.

Through an eclectic methodology (Chapter 2) (Rossman and Wilson, 1994; Aluko, 2006), this doctoral thesis uncovers challenges faced by the conservatoire sector in preparing students for careers that involve instrumental teaching, with main reference made to a case study at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) where the pedagogical training of undergraduate students was investigated across Levels 4–6 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (Chapters 5, 6). Findings were triangulated with perspectives obtained from academics at six other English conservatoires, as well as from senior leaders across Music Education Hubs in England and RBC alumni (Chapters 3, 4, 7). Thus, the research was underpinned and influenced by multiple communities of practice involving both ‘newcomers’ and ‘old-timers’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991) who, between them, offered numerous ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives (Reed-Danahay, 2016).

These findings revealed that hegemonic assumptions associated with conservatoire education create barriers to developing the future music education workforce in several ways (Chapter 8).While many RBC students’ outlooks towards teaching as a potential career path were transformed as a result of their engagement with various communities of practice throughout their undergraduate studies, alumni who benefited from similar training as students still considered that they could have been prepared more effectively for their early professional careers. Furthermore, institutional challenges have resulted in inconsistent pedagogical provision across the conservatoire sector and a mismatch between students’ pedagogical training and employer expectations. Recommendations include closer collaboration and dialogue between institutions, employers and alumni, to ensure that conservatoire graduates are trained appropriately to meet the needs of the modern music education sector, both during their studies and as they transition into employment.

About the Provider

Birmingham City University

Birmingham City University is a large and diverse university set in the heart of Birmingham with a focus on practice-based learning.