Brandeis University Shuttering Multiple Music PhD Programs

Brandeis University ends multiple music phd programs
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Brandeis University ends multiple music phd programs
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Photo Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel / CC by 4.0

Brandeis University announces plans to discontinue its doctoral programs in composition, music theory, and musicology in a letter to academic staff.

Massachusetts’ Brandeis University has notified its academic staff in a letter of its plans to discontinue its two Ph.D. programs in composition, music theory, and musicology. The university claims it would allocate the savings from the doctoral programs toward its undergraduate music program to make it comparable to “those at elite liberal arts colleges.”

Brandeis has enjoyed a long history as the alma mater of some of America’s most prevalent musical talent, including composers Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland. Several prominent Brandeis alums have written an open letter to the university’s administrative staff to warn of these changes’ impending threat to the school’s heritage.

“As some of you know, our Provost told us in May that the Musicology graduate program at Brandeis would be put on hiatus, with the intention of restoring it when the University’s finances improved,” wrote Assistant Professor Emily Frey Giansiracusa. “The administration told us today that both Musicology and Composition will be put on hiatus following this year — now with the intention of closing them permanently and shifting their scant resources to the sciences.”

The chair of the music department at Brandeis and a former dean of its graduate school, Eric Chasalow, recently told the Boston Globe that he suspected the university would prioritize funding science programs over the arts and humanities.

Frey Giansiracusa continues: “This recommendation was made in spite of the results of an 18-month-long review of all Brandeis Ph.D. programs, which found that Musicology and Composition ranked at or very near the top of all programs by every metric the Ph.D. review team claimed to value. These elements included job placement rate, attrition, matriculation, and many other measures by which we were found to be excellent.”

“Regrettably, the decision to trim a marginal fraction of the budget has sent waves of uncertainty throughout a national network of institutions,” the open letter reads. “This decision conveys the notion that music lacks the value to merit the limited resources it currently receives. The elimination of a high-achieving program not only adversely affects its own faculty, students, and alumni but also casts a shadow over the entire academic landscape of the arts.”