Uni changes tune on academy

PROGRAM PHASED OUT: The University of South Australia has confirmed its three-year Bachelor of Music program and one-year diploma and honours courses offered through the James Morrison Academy are currently being “phased out”. In a statement published on the academy's website, head of school James Morrison said the tertiary education landscape had changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the academy had not been allocate any diploma or bachelor seats for 2021.

By Raquel Mustillo

THE University of South Australia is phasing out its music programs offered through the James Morrison Academy after ending its partnership with the jazz school.

After just six years, the university announced it will discontinue its undergraduate and postgraduate program offerings at the Mount Gambier campus, which is headed by jazz musician James Morrison.

In a statement, a UniSA spokesperson the programs in music offered through the academy were being “phased out”, but said all current students were expected to complete their studies this year.

However, UniSA did not address questions relating to why the program would no longer be offered and enrolment numbers at the facility, simply stating “all other questions about James Morrison Academy should be directed to James Morrison Academy”.

Mr Morrison said the tertiary education landscape had changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with multi-billion dollar revenue losses from the collapse in international student enrolments forcing many institutions to review and discontinue a number of humanities, arts and language courses.

He said due to the university’s decision to phase out the programs offered at the campus, the academy had not been allocated any new diploma or bachelor seats, resulting in no new student intake for 2021.

“The James Morrison Academy and UniSA partnership has been an exciting development in music education, helping many young people who love music realise their goals and ambitions,” he said.

“In the coming months we will be continuing discussions with key stakeholders including the City of Mount Gambier, the Education Department, other university and pathway providers and members of the music industry to look at the different ways we can continue and in what form that might be in the future.”

The jazz great said current third year students would complete bachelor degrees as planned and a small number of undergraduate and post-graduate private students would continue to study at the facility.

“It’s very sad to have to turn away all those who wanted to begin new studies with us at James Morrison Academy in 2021, but this situation is out of our control and we are aware that many people have suffered greatly due to the pandemic, so we are just grateful to be able to continue as we are,” Mr Morrison said.

While the facility will remain at its current site at the Old Town Hall, Mr Morrison said there was “many exciting plans for creative projects at the former WIN site and James Morrison Academy may certainly be involved”.

The dedicated jazz school offered a three-year Bachelor of Music but stopped accepting enrolments for the program in 2020, with one-year diploma and honours courses still offered.

Mr Morrison told The Age in 2019 it was due to a change in federal funding arrangements.

The academy was opened in March 2015 with the help of a $500,000 grant from the State Government, with then Premier Jay Weatherill saying Mr Morrison had forecast an annual intake of 70 students, “building to a potential student body of up to 200 students by 2020”.

At the academy’s opening event, UniSA vice chancellor David Lloyd dubbed Mount Gambier the “undisputed jazz learning capital of the world”, telling the crowd “the academy will do for Mount Gambier what country music did for Tamworth”.

“The James Morrison Academy is of great importance to the provision of music education locally and nationally and it is a partnership we hope to build on into the future,” he said.

“We are looking forward to working together with James and the state and local governments to ensure its great success.”

Students at the James Morrison Academy of Music are enrolled as full registered students of UniSA, but attend classes at the campus situated in Mount Gambier’s Old Town Hall building.

Faculty are employed directly by the academy and curriculum is created by teaching staff.

Under the partnership with UniSA, students are able to apply for a HECS-HELP loan to pay for tuition.

Mr Morrison did not believe changes to the performance-based campus would have have any impact on the annual Generations in Jazz festival, adding he was not aware of any plans to move the long-running Generations in Jazz festival event from its historic OB Flat location.

“For the past 35 years Mount Gambier has been home to the unique ‘Generations in Jazz’ festival event, in which countless thousands of school pupils from around Australia have gathered to hear international and Australian artists, compete in the Stage Band and Vocal Ensemble Awards and for individual scholarships,” he said.

“Mount Gambier is the home of this event and I don’t imagine whatever the future holds for James Morrison Academy having any effect on Generations in Jazz.”