OK, the title is misleading and I’ll get to why in a moment. First up the link to the original story on the BBC where a bunch of talking heads claim that the “degree” is a waste of time. New College Nottingham’s announcement of the course is here, and the details of the course are here (you’ll need to click on the course titles at the bottom).
First of all, it’s not a “degree”; it’s a “foundation degree” i.e. the first two years of a degree course which can be topped up to a degree by doing the final year at the college.
Not everyone who studies music goes on to be a professional musician, though they may work in/with music to some extent. Teaching, for instance, requires a degree before you can begin teacher training. If you’re preference is for metal over, say, classical then why not do your first two years in a field you enjoy and are passionate about?
Then there are people who may work in the media, for promoters, venues, producers, recording studios… The modules the course offers cover a wide variety of “real life” skills including writing, composition, promotion, budgeting and so forth. It’s not just a “history of metal”.
Currently people will spend two years studying much the same material, but based on other genres of music. All they’ve done here is offer a contemporary course based on a “minority” music genre. As long as the difficulty level and depth is maintained – and the course is approved/underwritten by an established university – then I don’t see how it’s any more or less valuable than any other degree (by which I mean the full 3-year option).
Ask anyone with a degree and see how much of their actual course they use in their day-to-day working life. I hardly know anyone who uses a significant portion of it, though of course there will be exceptions.
My degree is in Information Technology With Computing. I teach Computing / Computing Science / ICT. While I cover several of the areas I was taught at university, I don’t go into them in nearly as much depth. Would I be as effective a teacher without that knowledge? Actually, I think so. The depth of knowledge I do have which is relevant for my teaching is predominantly self-taught.
Does that make my degree useless? From the point of view of subject coverage, perhaps so. To demonstrate that I can study, write reports, return work on time, put my head down, self-motivate and have a genuine interest in my subject of choice – certainly not.
And that’s the case with this degree. It allows someone looking for work in rock/metal industry that they’re prepared to go that little bit further to prove their worth in the job market. It also gives students the chance to develop a body of work using support and facilities they may not otherwise have.
Look at the topics covered – promotion, gigging, working as a group, coming up with ideas… there are skills there which would work well in many environments.
A “waste of time”? Hell, no. There are far more pointless courses out there than this one. It’s simply another music course with a focus on a “niche” genre. I’m completely musically untalented, but I would love to have a stab at it. It might bring out a creative side of me that just needs some help to come out.