Monday, February 01, 2010

A new millenium, a new discipline

In 2000, the EU issued what is known as the Bologna Declaration, a pledge by 29 countries to reform the structures of their higher education system. One of the consequences is that performing artists and composers can now obtain a doctoral degree in the EU. Until then, doctorates where the prerogative of universities and limited to academic programs (e.g. musicology or art history). Higher education outside of universities was limited to first and second degrees (equivalents to bachelor and master degrees) - a D.M.A. or a PhD. in composition, as commonly offered at many US universities, had been non-existent in those EU countries.

Since 2000, the reform has been carried out and musicians and composers can now enroll in more and more art schools (in association with universities) to obtain a doctoral degree. This is all very new to the old continent. Artists had not been considered (or trained) to spend their time writing dissertations and publish articles. The new degrees would require a fundamental rethinking of some educational and professional habits. The question of how scientific an artist’s research should be to be worthy of a doctoral level, and to what point a doctoral dissertation might be artistic, has been the subject of innumerable debates across Europe. Often very heated, these discussions have led institutions to take a stand, shape their curriculum, and start enrolling students in programs that can be very considerably different from school to school.

At the time of starting this blog, only a few doctoral students have finished their ‘artistic research’ in music and have become doctors in the arts – I just promoted a few months ago as the first one at Leiden University, the fourth one in the Low Countries.