School of Design

Postgraduate research student profiles


Dominic Harvey ASCM, BMus, MBA

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 2051
Fax: (+61 8) 6488 1076


Start date

Jan 2012

Submission date

Dec 2016


Dominic Harvey ASCM, BMus, MBA


Australian music undergraduate education: Investigating expectations, experiences, and perceptions of quality and effectiveness


The 21st Century has brought considerable change through globalisation such as massification, commodification and liberalisation across all aspects of life, including higher education. The Australian higher education sector has undergone significant shifts in operations and degree program offerings since the year 2000. Universities have adopted generalised models for undergraduate education such as that from the Bologna Process in Europe. For performing arts higher education, Australian tertiary providers have had to recalibrate degree programs in order to attract a wider subscription base at the undergraduate level. This liberalising effect prompted the question as to what impact this liberal arts approach would have upon traditionally very specialised areas of undergraduate study in Australia such as Music.

A major focus for Australian universities has been upon attracting higher degree revenue-generating postgraduates in order to improve research output and international institutional reputation. This has left the issues of quality and effectiveness in Music undergraduate degree programs under such liberalised models vulnerable to disinterest. For example, the area of music undergraduate performance training traditionally has been a vocational styled program of study. Many Music undergraduate programs found themselves within research-intensive universities that demanded high-level academic research outcomes rather than practical skill training. This has created a difficult situation for designing quality programs of study that would embed the most effective practical based outcomes for Music undergraduates.

This thesis investigates this issue through a mixed methods approach in a research project that spanned three years. The study focused upon participants engaged in the transition from the former Bachelor of Music program to the liberalised Bachelor of Arts model of undergraduate music education at The University of Western Australia’s School of Music (2012-2014). The continuing vocational styled model of degree program that operated at The Edith Cowan University’s Music School and the so-called Ivy-League styled degree model adopted at The University of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music were incorporated into the study for comparison. Through tracking student and staff expectations and experiences, the study aimed to shed light on the overall quality and effectiveness of music undergraduate education in Australian university music schools.

The findings reveal broadly that music undergraduate perceptions of quality and effectiveness perceptions towards the degree program are positive. However, upon deeper investigations of these perceptions and with further insights from staff involved in the transition, findings reveal several areas of critical concern. These areas include access to and participation in practical focused disciplines of study such as music performance, and equity of choice for music undergraduates in relation to compulsory general (non-music) units of study imposed under the new model. Crucial avenues for future investigations of music undergraduate study are identified also with particular emphasis upon the balance between part-time work and full-time study, and the skills sets determined by music schools to be essential to impart to music undergraduates.

Why my research is important

This is the first study of its kind for Australia and it is anticipated that this perception research has potential to provide:

• Evidence to the UWA SoM on the quality and effectiveness of its music undergraduate degree

• Help further inform the BM development for music undergraduate education at UWA and for other Australian university music schools

The primary aim of this study is to measure the perceptions of students and staff, their ongoing experiences, and estimations of the quality and effectiveness of music undergraduate study across three reputable Australian university music schools. The study took place over three years (2012-2014), documenting student and staff perceptions of music undergraduate education.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • University Postgraduate Award
  • Jean Rogerson Postgraduate Scholarship
  • UWA Postgraduate Students’ Association Travel Award

Dominic G. Harvey–Conductor