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Tuition fees, entrance examinations and misconceptions about equity in higher music education


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Jääskeläinen, T. (2021). Tuition fees, entrance examinations and misconceptions about equity in higher music education. Nordic Research in Music Education, 2(1), 4-19, Abstract: The increasing participation rate in higher education has raised its own issues, such as how to fund the growth while retaining the quality of education. In Finland, it has been argued that the tuition-free higher education policy increases equality. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, establishing a system of tuition fees supported by an income-contingent loan system for students has also been argued to increase equality. In Australia, students also face high tuition fees for higher education, as well as a support system focused on domestic students. In addition to tuition fees, entrance examinations also play a crucial part in higher education systems. In order to examine inequalities in higher education from the students’ point of view, tuition fees are scrutinised in connection with equality, and entrance examinations in relation to cultural reproduction. Comparing examples of higher music education institutions in Finland, the United Kingdom, and Australia shows that there are large differences between the tuition fees charged for domestic and international students, as well as between countries. Entrance examinations in higher music education are similar in these countries, but may include inequalities based on long traditions in the field of music, especially in classical music. By revealing misconceptions about equity in higher education, it is possible to have a critical debate about the role of tuition fee systems as they are connected with the economics of higher education, and about entrance examinations as reproducing social class inequalities. This discussion may contribute to the redefinition and reformation of more equitable and just education systems, and promote equality in general in society.
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Citation: Jääskeläinen, T. (2021). Tuition fees, entrance examinations and misconceptions about equity in higher music education.
Nordic Research in Music Education, 2(1), 4–19.
Original Article
Tuition fees, entrance
examinations and
misconceptions about equity
in higher music education
Tuula Jääskeläinen
Aliation: 
Contact corresponding author:
Keywords: tuition fee, entrance examination, equality, cultural reproduction, higher music education
Tuition fees, entrance exams
Equality is not given, nor is it claimed, it is practiced, it is verified.
(Rancière, 1999, p. 137)
A national higher education policy which provides equal opportunities to access tertiary
education is generally seen as satisfying one of the central criteria for describing an edu-
cation system as conducive to equality. is article puts the spotlight on the provision of
tertiary education in three countries, and assesses to what extent equal opportunities is
a fitting epithet for this provision. e main emphasis is on higher music education. e
countries to be looked at are Finland, the United Kingdom and Australia.1
Equality, as a concept, is oen associated with Finnish higher education policy because
it has been seen to provide equal opportunities to access tertiary education aer mandatory
primary and secondary education (Leijola, 2004). As Cai and Kivistö (2013) observe, this
argument is based on the reality of publicly funded tuition-free higher education system
for students in Finland. Low tuition fees have also been seen as a reason why international
students choose Finland as a country in which to study in higher education, although feed-
back from students in the United Kingdom and Australia indicates that university prestige
is a more important factor than the cost of tuition fees (Cai & Kivistö, 2013).
e increasing participation rate in university education has brought with it its own
issues, such as how to fund growth and still retain the quality of higher education. Else-
where, the expansion of higher education has been the main argument for introducing
tuition fees, for example in the United Kingdom (Ormston & Paterson, 2015). ere is
research evidence that changing the higher education system in the United Kingdom in
1998 from being publicly funded to being funded by tuition fees supported by an income-
contingent loan system for students has promoted equality by increasing funding per stu-
dent, raising enrolment rates, and increasing the participation of disadvantaged students
(Filippakou & Tapper, 2019; Murphy et al., 2019).
In Australia, tuition fees in higher education were abolished in 1974, but were then
re-introduced in 1989 (Gale & Parker, 2018). According to Ronai (2015), the Australian
government supports domestic students with loans that are not required to be paid back
before the students find employment aer graduation; however, international students do
not have access to these government loans. It has been argued that the high cost of educa-
tion is a strong motivator for students to complete a degree diligently and on time.
In higher education in Finland, only students outside the European Union and the
European Economic Area are required to pay tuition fees for Bachelor and Master level
 
Tuula Jääskeläinen
programmes (taught in English), although all Bachelor and Master level students pay a
small annual student union fee (approximately 100 euros) (Study in Finland, 2020). In
Finland, the United Kingdom, and Australia, students can apply for grants, bursaries, and
awards to cover tuition fees, and there are also grants or loans available for living expenses,
but there are significant differences in these arrangements from country to country, and
even within the country in the United Kingdom. Also, the tax systems in different countries
influence the expenses and financial support of students in higher education in different
ways. In fact, it is not easy for students to obtain this complex and varied information on
funding when they are trying to decide where to study (Murphy et al., 2019).
However, there are more barriers to access in higher education than tuition fees; for
example, entrance examinations are a crucial part of higher education systems. According
to Zimdars et al. (2009), there are nowadays still social class inequalities in access to higher
education, especially to elite institutions and fields of study, although women’s access rates
have increased. When looking at higher music education, where the education is mostly
based on one-to-one tuition and small groups, and is thus both costly and lengthy, entrance
examinations can eliminate inappropriate admission decisions (Cox, 2010)—but at the
same time can eliminate, or at least pare down, very valuable differences and diversity in
the student intake as well (Bull, 2019).
Both entrance examinations and tuition fees inexorably pull economics—for example,
the financial circumstances of a students background and that of society at large—into
any discussion of higher education. According to Reay (2017), business-minded adminis-
tration in education, financial requirements, expectations for productivity and efficiency,
and increasing unemployment in relation to social class inequalities all have an impact on
curricula, and have negative consequences on learning. Biesta (2005) sees the close links
between economics and education as a problematic process, where the learners are almost
expected to behave like customers and know what they want from teachers and educational
institutions, treating them as services. Bull (2019) emphasises that, in order to increase
inclusion and diversity in the field of music education, the evidence on inequalities—the
role they have and the consequences of this role—needs to be collected and made public.
e aim of this article is to address misconceptions about equity from the students’
point of view by examining how equality and cultural reproduction are connected to
tuition fees and entrance examinations in higher music education institutions in Finland,
the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Tuition fees and equality
When considering the connection between tuition fees and equality in education, the
concept of equality needs clarification. From a historical perspective, egalitarianism has
become a common and self-evident concept that is taken for granted as an element of
Tuition fees, entrance exams
social progression, but its meaning has grown out of a vague and even ambivalent abstract
concept, the imprecise nature of which has also influenced the concept of equality in edu-
cational contexts (Kalalahti & Varjo, 2012). Very oen, equality as a concept is used as if
it were interchangeable with equity or justice; however, the meanings are not the same
(Nelson et al., 2012). In different educational fields, many discussions around equity have
focused on questions of access, participation, and benefits within educational levels and
social groups (Lynch & Baker, 2005). Ainscow (2016) takes equity to be concerned with
inclusion and fairness in education, and views it as a human right and the basis for justice
in society. In addition, equity in connection with quality and efficiency has become the
main international measure of the effectiveness of a higher education system (James, 2007).
In Table 1, the differences between three scholars’ assumptions about educa-
tional equality, educational equity, and educational justice are illustrated to show how
overlapping—and even conflicting—these concepts can be.
Table 1:
Authors Educational equality Educational equity Educational justice
 
 
As a summary, equality in a society can be considered as a state in which everyone benefits
from the same supports through equal treatment; equity as a state in which everyone gets
the support they need; and justice as a state in which any causes of inequity are addressed
and removed. Espinoza (2007) argues that the degree of equity is not equivalent with the
level of equality, because more equity may result in less equality. Levitan (2016) highlights
that in educational contexts equality or equity must not be achieved at the expense of justice.
Brayboy et al. (2007) also argue that equality, in the sense of aspiring towards same-
ness, is not always compatible with justice, and can lead to assimilationist policies in edu-
cation. For example, even if educational institutions had equal resources, this would not
mean that they were necessarily equitable, fair, and equal. Equity fosters justice and fairness
through a non-equal distribution of various national or local or institutional resources,
Tuula Jääskeläinen
thereby compensating for inequalities of various sorts in students’ backgrounds and other
cultural and social circumstances; this results in more equal educational opportunities for
students. erefore, to achieve equality, equity and justice in education, assimilation cannot
be a prerequisite for academic success.
Equality, equity, and justice are connected in intertwined ways to students’ financial
circumstances in higher education. e tuition-free education in Finland can look as if it is
promoting equality, as tuition fees are not barriers to study in higher education. However,
despite the tuition-free education, there are socio-economic factors connected to higher
education in Finland that may cause inequality between individuals. One example is com-
petition in entrance examinations, in which applicants who can afford preparation courses
are in a better position and more likely to be accepted than applicants who do not have
access to these expensive classes (Leijola, 2004).
e income-contingent loan system in the United Kingdom may be seen as promoting
justice, since both advantaged and disadvantaged individuals have the same opportunities
to obtain sufficient resources to study in higher education. In reality, however, student loans
do not cover all the expenses in a student’s life, and this creates a gap between students with
and those without familial financial support (Reay, 2017). Moreover, when students have
large debts waiting for them when they graduate, universities carry increased pressure to
train all their students in all their degree programmes to be more practically employable
(Filippakou & Tapper, 2019).
Similarly, the loan system for domestic students in higher education supported by the
Australian government may seem to promote equity, because domestic students are more
likely to return the government’s investment by paying taxes in Australia through their
future employment. At the same time, for international students, the high cost of educa-
tion in Australia can lead to a lowering of quality standards and the unequal treatment of
students, if teachers are under pressure to advance the academic interests and graduation
of those students who pay higher tuition fees (Ronai, 2015).
Entrance examinations and cultural reproduction
When looking at entrance examinations, Bourdieu’s (1977) theory of cultural reproduction
offers a view on the impact of cultural capital between social classes with regard to entrance
examinations as educational attainment. According to Zimdars et al. (2009, p. 650), “cul-
tural capital consists of familiarity with the dominant culture in a society”. us, cultural
capital varies between social classes. Because education systems are built from knowledge
and skills based on cultural capital, the system itself reproduces the circumstances that put
lower-class students at a disadvantage, since they possess less cultural capital than upper-
class students.
Tuition fees, entrance exams
In Finland, the connection between entrance examinations and cultural reproduction
can be seen as a cumulative source of inequality in higher education stemming from a
student’s family background, for example parents having university degrees, leading at first
to a child’s better results in primary and secondary education, which then forms the basis
for success in the entrance examinations to higher education (Heiskala et al., 2020; Leijola,
2004). Reay (2017) argues that educational policy changes in the United Kingdom have
not been able to overcome the issue that students are educated according to their social
class background. Recent research by Czarnecki (2018) shows that in Australia there are
still differences in educational opportunity between social classes, which is evident in that
young people with upper-class background have better chances than those with lower-
class background to access the most prestigious institutions of higher education. Although
an awareness of equality in education has been highlighted in educational institutions,
emphasis on economic effectiveness has increased competition, which has in turn resulted
in decreased social justice and fairness in education, especially for the lower social classes
(Reay, 2017).
Higher music education has specific characteristics that differentiate it from other
fields in higher education, and which need to be addressed when thinking about entrance
examinations in connection to cultural reproduction. In many Western countries, music
education practices have historical roots in economic inequalities between social classes,
and classical music in particular is characterized by bourgeois practices “created by the
aesthetic of classical music’s canonic repertoire (Bull, 2019, p. 222). erefore, this cultural
reproduction can be seen as strengthening the middle class, maintaining gendered patterns,
and legitimising hierarchical, competitive, and exclusive educational practices, thus hinder-
ing wider participation in music education.
According to Bull’s (2019, p. 229) empirical research, these practices are difficult to
change because they are reproduced again and again:
… by teachers, who teach as they were taught, by conservative assessment models both
in and out of school, by the powerful influence of higher education music institutions,
both universities and conservatoires, by parents who want to accrue value of various
kinds for their children and by young people themselves who want to find their social
niche, and … oen have a strong sense of hierarchies of valued identities.
Comparison of tuition fees and entrance
examinations in higher music education in
Finland, the United Kingdom, and Australia
Are there notable differences in the tuition fees and entrance examinations between stu-
dents in higher music education in different countries? To answer this question, three
Tuula Jääskeläinen
higher music education institutions in different countries were chosen for this article: the
Sibelius Academy (SibA/Uniarts, 2020) in Finland, the Royal Northern College of Music
(RNCM, 2020) in the United Kingdom, and the Queensland Conservatorium (QCGU,
2020) in Australia.
To obtain a sample overview of what students face with regard to tuition fees in these
three countries, Table 2 shows the comparison of degrees, study years, study credits, and
tuition fees in euros as of May 2018. Details of degrees and tuition fees were gathered from
the institutions’ web pages in 2018 (QCGU, 2020; RNCM, 2020; SibA/Uniarts, 2020).
is comparison shows that the Bachelor’s, Masters, and Doctoral degrees in higher
music education have some differences in their duration in these institutions in Finland,
the United Kingdom, and Australia. In addition, there are striking differences between the
tuition fees that students face: there are obvious differences between tuition fees for domes-
tic and international students, and significant differences between the situation in Finland
and other countries.
When considering the entrance examination information on the institutions’ web
pages (QCGU, 2020; RNCM, 2020; SibA/Uniarts, 2020), admission procedures seem to
be similar in all institutions. Admission procedures consist of 1) an application which
may include recommendations, 2) recorded and/or live auditions (particularly in music
performance programmes), 3) an exam, portfolio, or research plan (in other study pro-
grammes), and 4) possible interviews, additional tests, or other requirements depend-
ing on the study programmes’ specific guidelines. However, there is more flexibility in
the application dates in the United Kingdom and Australia, where, in addition to exact
admission dates, it is possible to apply throughout the year. In Finland, admission dates are
very strict.
It is not possible to compare the percentages of applicants and accepted students
between the three countries, because information on web pages regarding the total num-
ber of applicants and accepted students is only available for Finland. e statistics of the
Sibelius Academy (SibA/Uniarts, 2020) show that during the years 2017–2020 at the Bach-
elor and Master levels the number of applicants has varied between 1197–1500, the num-
ber of accepted students has varied between 170–197, and the acceptance percentage has
varied between 13–15%. In the United Kingdom, the web pages of the Royal Northern
College of Music (RNCM, 2020) do provide information about other aspects of the appli-
cation/acceptance ratio, in particular statistics regarding Transparency Information about
the applicants’ and accepted students’ gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic background,
which is an important way to show the diversity of admissions.
However, Our World in Data statistics for tertiary education can provide an overview
of the countries’ general situation with regard to education (Roser & Ortiz-Ospina, 2013).
Table 3 shows the comparison of the situation in tertiary education between the three
countries we have been looking at.
Tuition fees, entrance exams
Table 2:
Institution Lower degree Higher degree Doctoral degree
Study years
and credits
Tuition fee per year Study years
and credits
Tuition fee per year Study years
and credits
Tuition fee per year
 
 
 
  
 
  
  
 
Tuula Jääskeläinen
Table 3:
Country Share of the population
older than 14 that has
completed tertiary
education* in
2010 (%)
Share of those who
within 5years of finishing
secondary education**
were enrolled in tertiary
education* in 2013 (%)
Government expenditure
on tertiary education* in
2013 (% of Gross Domestic
   
   
   
e statistics regarding the completion of tertiary education show that the percentage was
much higher in the United Kingdom and Australia than it was in Finland. On the other
hand, when looking at the statistics regarding the number of individuals enrolled in ter-
tiary education, the percentage was higher in Finland and Australia than in the United
Kingdom. Government expenditure on tertiary education was higher in Finland than in
the United Kingdom and Australia.
Misconceptions about equity in higher education
e tuition fee systems and entrance examinations in Finland, the United Kingdom, and
Australia each aim to increase equality, equity, and justice, but there are still inequalities
from the students’ point of view. Gale and Parker (2018) point out that the practice of
assigning the burden of students’ tuition fees to individuals, rather than to the public as a
whole, is a product of neoliberalism. Similarly, the neoliberal market economy strength-
ens the cultural reproduction of social classes so that some sort of causal effect is being
strengthened whereby students from wealthier families and/or families with greater
resources tend to gain access to wealthier higher education institutions, while students
from poorer families with weaker resources tend to access inadequately resourced institu-
tions (Reay, 2017). According to Apple (2006), when neoliberal tendencies have impact on
educational systems, it is important to find ways both to contest these tendencies and to
strengthen democracy in education.
James (2007) argues that one way to improve equality in education is to reveal mis-
conceptions that surround the discussion of equity in higher education. e first of the
six misconceptions identified by James (2007, p. 10) is that “expanding participation will
improve equity”. As the example of the United Kingdom shows, the increasing participa-
tion in higher education was driven by the needs of labour markets, but this later forced
a re-establishment of tuition fees and caused a situation in which students are burdened
Tuition fees, entrance exams
with heavy debts to be paid aer graduation. According to Peltonen (2017), if the process
of education is driven purely by economic interests, it may overpower the essential aims of
the actual human beings participating in that education.
e second misconception is that “free or low cost higher education will improve equity”
(James, 2007, pp. 10–11). As can be seen from the example of Finland’s tuition-free higher edu-
cation, this also has consequences which may increase inequalities between individuals, such
as the use of entrance examinations. Biesta (2005) emphasizes that one of the most important
tasks for teachers is to challenge educational systems to activate students as learners to meet
otherness and difference. If the entrance examinations eliminate differences among students,
then tuition-free education cannot fully support this basic task of education.
e third misconception, connected to the second, is that “improving equity involves
the removal of barriers to access” (James, 2007, p. 11). Removing barriers is not the same
thing as building opportunities, and therefore removing tuition fees or entrance examina-
tions as barriers to access does not necessarily promote equity if it leads to assimilation
policies. Kontio and Sailer (2017) argue that the legitimation of the educational system
should include the idea of allowing each individual to cultivate and reach their full poten-
tial. Securing sufficient financial aid to manage tuition fees and living costs, for example
with money provided by institutional scholarships or government loans, can be a way to
enable students to realize their potential in education. Similarly, supporting children in the
process of recognizing their potential and providing resources to cultivate their interests
from early childhood can prepare them for accessing higher education or pursuing other
educational choices.
e fourth misconception is that “the onus is with universities to resolve equity prob-
lems” (James, 2007, p. 11). Higher education cannot be solely responsible for increasing
equality, equity, and justice in society. A student’s previous educational path, including early
childhood before school age, has an impact on their opportunities to achieve their potential
through their educational choices. However, financial support for tuition fees by the gov-
ernment and higher education institutions can narrow inequalities between advantaged
and disadvantaged students, and in that way promote change in the future. is is imple-
mented in Finland through tuition-free education, and in the United Kingdom and Austra-
lia through loans and institutional scholarships for students. According to Kontio and Sailer
(2017), using taxes for educational investment can be an effective way of achieving a more
equal income distribution from the rich to the poor. As Table 3 indicates, Finland invests
more public resources in higher education than either the United Kingdom or Australia.
e fih misconception is that “widening participation will lower standards or lower
retention and completion rates” (James, 2007, pp. 11–12). It is too simplistic to argue
without strong evidence that increasing participation leads to decreasing retention and
completion rates in higher education. ere are many factors connected to a student’s
circumstances that can slow or hinder graduation. erefore, these assumptions cannot
Tuula Jääskeläinen
be used as arguments against the idea of supporting both advantaged and disadvantaged
students on their university paths, for example through governmental support for tuition
fees. Education should not be measured only by graduation rates calibrated to serve the
economic interests of society. Hansen and Davids (2017) remind us that the heart of edu-
cation—wisdom—can only be achieved through discourse about important aspects of life,
not through educational economics.
is idea is also related to the sixth misconception, that “students can be selected for
higher education on academic merit (James, 2007, p. 12). Gaining admittance to univer-
sity cannot be a sign of merit or intellectual ability alone, as it is also indicative of cultural
reproduction in the cumulative advantages or of disadvantages created by the student’s
family, school, and community circumstances. Increasing participation rates and broad-
ening governmental and institutional systems for supporting free tuition or government
loans for students have changed the elitist image of higher education over the last decades.
According to Dewey (1998/1916), the criteria that determine both the quality and quantity
of education should be a combination of the learner’s point of departure and their intrinsic
activities and needs.
How do tuition fees increase or decrease equality? e answer is not simple, as there are dif-
ferent governmental and educational policies connected to the tuition fee systems in differ-
ent countries. As the examples of tuition fee systems in higher music education institutions
provided here show, while they may aim at improving equality, equity, and justice for students,
they can, at the same time, also enhance (or even introduce new) inequalities. It would be
interesting to consider how tuition fees are connected to students’ well-being, instead of look-
ing merely at students’ economic value as future employees. Recent research by Beban and
Trueman (2018) shows that financial worries can be a key source of stress for students in
higher education, including the immediate financial needs of paying rent and buying food
as well as the anxiety over student loan debt. Future research in relation to equality could
concentrate on music students’ experienced workload, stress and struggle to cope as they try
to manage their tuition fees and other financial challenges alongside the demands of their
higher music education studies (Jääskeläinen, 2016; Jääskeläinen & López-Íñiguez, 2017).
What about entrance examinations and cultural reproduction? Traditions in the field
of music have created a strong culture of entrance examinations that is not easy to change,
especially because the roots of cultural reproduction are so deeply embedded in music’s
aesthetic, pedagogical, and educational systems. In addition, the path from childhood to suc-
cess (or failure) in a higher education entrance examination is strongly connected to socio-
economic and family circumstances. e most important step towards improving entrance
Tuition fees, entrance exams
examination systems is to gather data on inequalities and good practices, in order to find
ways to strengthen inclusion and diversity. A good example is the Transparency Information
displayed on the Royal Northern College of Music web page about the diversity of applicants
and accepted students. Bull (2019) suggests rethinking selection processes to increase fair-
ness, as well as developing more diverse curricula and pedagogies in music education, while
Reay (2017) emphasizes the impact of collaborative approaches to learning.
Reimer (2007) argues that although inequities and injustices are not going to disappear
in music education, it is crucial to pursue broader equality, equity, and justice—and there-
fore all efforts, even those with modest positive results or resulting in only slight progress,
are valuable. is requires a critical debate about the role and impact of tuition fee and
entrance examination systems in higher music education, situated within an evaluation of
contemporary educational policy trends. According to Bull (2019), crucial topics include
1) social inequalities, 2) genres, class, genders, and race, 3) sexual, emotional, and physical
abuse in the field of music, and 4) creative collaboration with other social groups. Moreover,
it is vital to listen to young people talk about their joys and concerns, and to integrate their
voices into the music institutions’ developmental work. Addressing and sharing individual
experiences of inequality and oppression in educational systems can make more inclusive
education possible (Reay, 2017).
In the field of higher music education, discussion about tuition fees in relation to
equality and about entrance examinations in relation to cultural reproduction is crucial.
In addition to pursuing this ongoing discussion, Bull (2019, p. 236) provides very practical
steps towards verifying equality through funding and access in music education:
e best defence for better public funding for music education is, therefore, not the
outdated mantra that every child should have a chance to learn an instrument, but that
a public system has more power to sustain and develop more representative, cross-
cultural and innovative musical cultures.
It is through such steps in education that we can contribute to the reformation and redefi-
nition of a more equitable and just society in the future (Siljander & Kontio, 2017). is
article, looking at these important aspects of higher education mainly from the student’s
perspective, seeks to make a contribution to promoting equality both in higher music edu-
cation and in society in general.
Author biography
Tuula Jääskeläinen (M.Ed.) has twenty years of working experience in the higher educa-
tion administration of the University of Helsinki and the University of the Arts Helsinki,
Finland, as a project coordinator, planning officer, university pedagogy lecturer, and head
Tuula Jääskeläinen
of Student Services. She is currently working as a planning officer at the Aalto University
School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland. She is a doctoral researcher in music
education in the MuTri Doctoral School in the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts
Helsinki, Finland, and in the ArtsEqual Research Initiative associated with the Center for
Educational Research and Academic Development in the Arts (CERADA). She is also
studying International Law and Human Rights minor studies at the Institute for Human
Rights in the Åbo Akademi University, Finland.
is work was undertaken at the Center for Educational Research and Academic Devel-
opment in the Arts (CERADA), University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland, as part of
ArtsEqual Research Initiative, supported by the Academy of Finland’s Strategic Research
Council under Grant 314223/2017. I would like to thank language editor Dr. Christopher
TenWolde, NRME’s own language editor and the two anonymous reviewers whose sugges-
tions helped improve and clarify this manuscript.
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... The data were collected in seven higher music education institutions in Finland and the United Kingdom. Over 4 years, a total of seven studies were conducted in the MSW Project (see study characteristics in Table 1): (1) a theoretical study scrutinizing diverse higher music education systems in connection with equality and cultural reproduction (Jääskeläinen, 2021); (2) a systematic review mapping international research on music students' workload ; (3) a methodological study discussing the transcendental phenomenological approach as a method for obtaining a meaningful understanding of music students' experiences in higher education (Jääskeläinen, 2022b); (4) a qualitative study exploring music students' workload experiences in connection with their meaningful engagement in music (Jääskeläinen, 2022a); (5) a mixed-method study shedding light on music students' proactive coping styles in connection with workload and stress ; (6) a mixed-method study examining music students' experienced workload, stress, and livelihoods (Jääskeläinen et al., 2020); and (7) a qualitative study exploring teachers' ways of supporting music students' workload and stress (Jääskeläinen and López-Íñiguez, 2022). ...
... When starting the search phase, it was important to take a closer look at the similarities and differences of higher music education systems in different countries-particularly because the MSW Project was a cross-cultural research project-and to understand how these systems might be connected to educational equality, equity, and justice, and cultural reproduction. These topics were discussed in the theoretical study (i.e., Jääskeläinen, 2021), which was conducted in 2018. In the same year, we prepared the protocol for the systematic review (registered in PROSPERO CRD42020140497) and performed the systematic search of literature in 23 electronic databases and 19 music research journals. ...
... 1. Theoretical study: Misconceptions about equity in higher music education should be revealed-for example by investigating music students' experiences of their workload and stress as they try to cope with the demands of higher education studies-to raise and maintain a critical debate about the role of tuition fee systems, as they are connected with the economics of higher education, and about entrance examinations as reproducing social class inequalities (Jääskeläinen, 2021). 2. Systematic review: Good practices are needed (a) to increase music students' ability to cope with their workload; (b) to provide tools for teachers to support music students Male (n = 8) Doctoral programs 3.9 ...
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Evidence-based policies are needed to support students as they cope with their experiences of workload and stress in higher music education. This subject was explored in the Music Student Workload Project as a collaboration between Finland and the United Kingdom in seven studies: (1) a theoretical study scrutinizing diverse higher music education systems in connection with equality and cultural reproduction; (2) a systematic review mapping international research on music students' workload; (3) a methodological study discussing the transcendental phenomenological approach as a method for obtaining a meaningful understanding of music students' experiences in higher education; (4) a qualitative study exploring music students' workload experiences in connection with their meaningful engagement in music; (5) a mixed-method study shedding light on music students' proactive coping styles in connection with workload and stress; (6) a mixed-method study examining music students' experienced workload, stress, and livelihoods; and (7) a qualitative study exploring teachers' ways of supporting music students' workload and stress. The meta-narrative synthesis was conducted by triangulating the key elements of these studies to generate four actionable policy and intervention recommendations to inform educational policies and practices for supporting students in coping with workload and stress in higher music education: (1) support music students' proactive coping skills; (2) find solutions to the unequal workload and stress experiences between low-income and well-off students, different genders, and different study programs; (3) ensure teachers' continuing professional development, particularly in the learner-centered pedagogical approaches; and (4) invest resources for providing more longitudinal, cross-cultural, and interventional research investigating music students' discipline-specific experiences of workload and stress.
... The institutions were chosen randomly. On the differences between higher music education systems in Finland and in the United Kingdom, see Jääskeläinen (2021). ** Undergraduate level includes bachelor's degree students, and postgraduate level includes both master's degree students and doctoral degree students. ...
... Indeed, these kinds of ambivalent voices, expressed by some of the students in the present study, are necessary to bring a more practical and balanced awareness to many students' idealistic constructions of what it means to be a musician. In addition, these ambivalent viewpoints may also offer an opportunity for mentors to help their students develop a critical awareness of the implications of different musical teaching and learning traditions, as well as some of the unequal institutional cultures that still exist in the field of higher music education (Jääskeläinen, 2021). For example, hierarchical, competitive, and exclusive practices have long historical roots in the field, especially in classical music, and students often reproduce them after internalizing the social and hierarchical values connected to elitist constructions of classical musicianship (Bull, 2019). ...
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Enhancing our knowledge about students' experiences during their studies in higher music education is essential to understand and support them as they cope with their specific workloads in studying music. This study provides a research-based understanding of what engaging in music means to music students when they reflected on their experiences of their studies and workloads. The data were collected from interviews with 29 students in higher music education institutions in Finland and the United Kingdom, and the analysis was conducted by following the framework of transcendental phenomenology. Music students' experiences of their workload are connected in multifaceted ways to the meanings they ascribe to their engagement in music, such as intense and complex experiences that are also a source of vitality, their development as musicians, their creative self-expression, their interaction with others and in building a community, their personal growth and coping approaches during their studies, and the transcendental experiences they encounter during their engagement with music. Thus, the findings indicate that engaging in music is a holistic experience for music students. This study shows the importance of understanding and investing in music students' unique workload experiences through research on the teaching and learning practices of higher music education institutions, which can in turn support music students' well-being, learning, and future careers.
... These factors can include both the student's engagement with their studies (Jääskeläinen, in press) and the student's interactions with their teachers . Environmental factors can also have an impact on a student's workload; for example, the overall higher education culture (Jääskeläinen et al., 2020) or the amount of tuition fees that need to be paid in different countries (Jääskeläinen, 2021), which is then connected to pressures to secure funding and balance work commitments with studying (see also Beban & Trueman, 2018). ...
... The specific research goal was to explore what engaging in music means to music students in relation to their experienced workload during their studies in higher education. Acquiring this kind of qualitative knowledge helps to construct visions for equity (Jääskeläinen, 2021), because when music students' unique and meaningful experiences are heard and appreciated, these experiences can inform research in higher music education, as indicated in the present transcendental phenomenology study. It is also hoped that the detailed steps illustrated here can provide a practical model for addressing music students' experiences in relation to future administrative and teaching developments in higher music education institutions, such as processing and incorporating students' feedback into improvements in teaching and learning environments. ...
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International Journal of Education & the Arts: Enhancing our understanding of students’ experiences during their studies in higher music education is essential to supporting them as they cope with their specific workloads in studying music. This study provides a detailed description of and model for how music students’ lived experiences can be approached and analysed through transcendental phenomenology. The specific research goal was to explore what engaging in music means to music students in relation to their experienced workload. This research-based model may be utilised to inform developmental work and future research, such as processing and incorporating students’ feedback into improvements in teaching and learning environments.
... The master-apprentice tradition with its focus on expertise (Laes and Westerlund 2018), musical belief systems (Christophersen 2012), and cultural reproduction (Bull 2019) as well as the idea of talent (Brändström 1997) and high ability (Jaap and Patrick 2014), still seems to prevail. By reproducing norms close to educational traditions, norms of entrance tests are also reproduced, as also noted by Jääskeläinen (2021). The view of the learning student in this study can therefore be questioned and seen as incompatible with views and attitudes at universities, where learning processes should be seen as contextual, changeable, and lifelong. ...
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This article concerns assessors’ use of predictions of applicants’ ability to learn when assessing admission tests for specialist music teacher education in Sweden. The data consist of stimulated-recall interviews with video-recorded admission tests as stimuli, and the analyses are based on discourse psychology with a focus on the variations, functions, and effects of the assessors’ statements about learning opportunities. The results highlight several ways of talking about applicants’ learnability, based on the view that learnability is a matter of teacher help, learning time, applicant age, and talent. Based on these results, learnability can be considered a selection tool, legitimised with reference to the assessors as experts able to foresee and make decisions about applicants’ future development opportunities. In this sense, the test contexts can be seen as permeated by educational traditions in which discourses about learnability govern the assessors’/masters’ decisions.
... The research-based knowledge of music students' workload and stress provides significant aspects, such as differences between genders and study programs. These differences should be discussed in connection with the curriculum and higher music education systems to investigate more thoroughly why these unequal differences exist (Jääskeläinen, 2021) and how these issues can be overcome so that all study programs have the appropriate workload for students. Our study's main implication is to present how music students use proactive coping styles: proactive coping, reflective coping, strategic planning, preventive coping, instrumental support seeking, emotional support seeking, and avoidance coping (Greenglass, 2002). ...
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Proactive coping styles may help students deal with their study workload and stress in healthier ways. In this explanatory mixed methods study, data were gathered among professional students in higher music education in Finland and the United Kingdom about their experiences of workload, stress, and proactive coping. Bivariate analyses were used to explore prevalence of study workload, stress, and seven proactive coping styles among genders, levels of degree, genre groups, and study programs, and investigate whether stress is predicted by study workload and proactive coping styles. Music students' lived experiences were analyzed to find the determinants of their workload, stress, and coping. Results indicate significant differences between genders and study programs and specific concerns for music students, such as working alongside studying and physical and psychological problems. Higher music education institutions can utilize this evidence to better support music students in their studies and professional careers.
... In the United Kingdom, the neoliberalisation policy agenda has reconfigured the public university by laying foundations for a fully marketised provision, for instance with variable tuition fees in higher education (Maisuria 2014). In contrast to the United Kingdom, higher education institutions in Finland have low tuition fees but selective entrance examinations which have an impact on the educational equality, equity and justice when linked to the cumulative advantage or disadvantage of the student's family, school, and community circumstances (Jääskeläinen 2020a). ...
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Neoliberal education policies-viewing students' life as human capital, economic investment for the labour market and consumer power-may increase students' workload in higher education. In this mixed methods study, we examined music students' experiences of workload in Finland and the United Kingdom in connection with stress and livelihoods. We used Bayesian mixed effects ordinal probit regression modelling to estimate effects of countries and livelihoods as predictors for music students' experienced workload in relation to their main subject of study (or principal study) and stress. We analysed music students' lived experiences of workload to find further predictors for the developmental work in universities and educational policies. Results indicate that where neoliberal university culture impacts on music students' livelihoods alongside their studies, this is likely to increase stress but not necessarily impact on the workload associated with their main subject of study. However, stress has a notable effect on students' experiences of workload. We suggest paying attention to certain aspects in universities in relation to workload, such as the gap between well-off students compared to low-income students who need to work, and stress, particularly with female and non-binary gender students. Furthermore, we propose alternative ways to navigate neoliberal university culture.
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Over the past decades, the practices and policies of higher music education have been shaped by the rapid global changes affecting curricula, pedagogies, and students’ employability. At the same time, the rates of psychological distress and illness among students have been rising. Thus, higher music education institutions urgently need to understand music students’ experiences of workload, stress, and coping in order to support their learning, well-being, and future careers. Music students’ studying experiences differ from other students’ experiences, as part of studying music has specific characteristics deriving from the traditional master-apprentice model, such as one-to-one tuition, practising, and performing. As part of the cross-national Music Student Workload project in Finland and the United Kingdom, this article-based doctoral dissertation investigates music students’ experienced workload, stress, and coping. The four international peer-reviewed publications included here report on and synthesise the explanatory stage of the research project. Extended meta-ethnography was used to synthesise 29 qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies in the first article, which is a systematic review of the literature on students’—and particularly music students’—experienced workload. A transcendental phenomenological approach was combined with multistrategy methodology (quantitative and qualitative) when examining music students’ experienced workload and stress in connection to music students’ use of proactive coping styles in the second article, and in connection to music students’ life and livelihoods in the third article. A qualitative methodology was used in the fourth article, which recommends tools that teachers can use to support music students in managing and coping with their experienced workload. In the second, third, and fourth articles the data consisted of responses to the Workload, Stress, and Coping questionnaire from a total of 155 music students (108 in Finland and 47 in the United Kingdom), of which 29 participated in subsequent interviews. The results and findings were synthesised to make recommendations for students, teachers, administrators, and student health and well-being services as to how to deal with music students’ workload. It is recommended that good practices should be identified to support music students’ proactive coping skills in higher music education institutions. It is also crucial to find solutions to the unequal workload and stress experiences between low-income and well-off students, different genders, and different study programmes. In addition, teachers’ continuing professional development must be ensured, particularly in learner-centred pedagogical approaches. This dissertation recommends investments in longitudinal, cross-cultural, and interventional research on music students’ experiences that can inform educational policies and pedagogical practices in higher music education. Furthermore, specific challenges and resources associated with music students’ coping with workload and stress should be acknowledged in general educational theories concerning students’ workload.
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The rules of intake, which determine how educational institutions are accessed, play a significant part in generating intergenerational educational inequalities. Different rules may allow parental advantages to compensate for students’ lack of advantages (such as academic performance) or to multiply and help only those students who are in a position to use such additional advantages. In this article, we study compensation and the multiplication of advantages in the context of the Finnish higher education system. Entrance exams and a dual model (universities and polytechnics) make this system stand out among many other Western countries and hence suitable for this study. Using high-quality Finnish register data, we study the associations between parental education and stratified higher education enrolment across the school performance distribution. Our results show that polytechnics provide access for poorly performing students from higher social origins (compensatory advantage). Polytechnic education also attracts well-performing students from lower social origins, which leads to a situation in which well-performing students with higher social origins have a substantially larger probability of enrolling in university compared to well-performing students with lower social origins (multiplicative advantage).
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Through an ethnographic study of young people playing and singing in classical music ensembles in the south of England, this book analyses why classical music in England is predominantly practiced by white middle-class people. It describes four ‘articulations’ or associations between the middle classes and classical music. Firstly, its repertoire requires formal modes of social organization that can be contrasted with the anti-pretentious, informal, dialogic modes of participation found in many forms of working-class culture. Secondly, its modes of embodiment reproduce classed values such as female respectability. Thirdly, an imaginative dimension of bourgeois selfhood can be read from classical music’s practices. Finally, its aesthetic of detail, precision, and ‘getting it right’ requires a long-term investment that is more possible, and makes more sense, for middle- and upper-class families. Through these arguments, the book reframes existing debates on gender and classical music participation in light of the classed gender identities that the study revealed. Overall, the book suggests that inequalities in cultural production can be understood through examining the practices that are used to create a particular aesthetic. It argues that the ideology of the ‘autonomy’ of classical music from social concerns needs to be examined in historical context as part of the classed legacy of classical music’s past. It describes how the aesthetic of classical music is a mechanism through which the middle classes carry out boundary-drawing around their protected spaces, and within these spaces, young people’s participation in classical music education cultivates a socially valued form of self-hood.
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This short article discusses the importance of asking the right kinds of questions when thinking about educational equality, equity and justice.
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Perheiden aikaisempaa vapaampi kouluvalintaoikeus ja peruskoulujen eriytymiskehitys ovat nousseet näyttävästi julkisen keskustelun aiheiksi. Tässä artikkelissa analysoimme tähän julkiseen keskusteluun liittyvää koulutuspoliittista puheavaruutta. Kuvaamme perusopetukseen sijoittumista ja valikoitumista ohjaavien periaatteiden rakentumista ja muuntumista koulutusmahdollisuuksien tasa-arvon näkökulmasta. Tarkastelemalla tasa-arvon käsitehistoriallisia kerrostumia osoitamme nykyhetkessä kaksi erillistä kilpailevaa tulkintaa, jotka ilmenevät perusopetuksen lähikoulu-periaatteessa ja perheiden kouluvalintaoikeuden esiin nostamisessa. Equality of opportunity and admission policies in basic education Mira Kalalahti and Janne Varjo The development of Finnish basic education has included various reformulations of the objectives for the educational system and, also, different interpretations for the concept of equality. In this article, we elaborate the changes in the guiding principles of admission policies in basic education. By analyzing the changing concepts of equality in the education policy discourse and the practices, we explicate different socio-historical forms of admission policies. Based on the trajectory of the forms of selection, we interpret the recent change towards a more individualized concept of equality of opportunity and school choice. We argue that the key question of equality of opportunity in basic education is the balancing act between the principles of the “neighbourhood school” and open enrolment. We conclude that the underlying concepts of equality articulated in those principles are contradictory or diverse and may have elements that maintain, change or increase inequality of opportunity.
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This book brings Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden’s pioneering Education and the Working Class from 1962 up to date for the 21st century. Drawing on over 500 interviews, the book includes rich, vivid stories from working class children and young people. It looks at class identity, the inadequate sticking plaster of social mobility, and the effects of wider economic and social class relationships on working class educational experiences. The book addresses the urgent question of why the working classes are still faring so much worse than the upper and middle classes in education. It reveals how we have ended up with an educational system that still educates the different social classes in fundamentally different ways, and vitally - what we can do to achieve a fairer system.
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This article investigates the consequences of an expansion of domestic university places in Australia after 2009 for inequalities in access to tertiary education. I focused on how different individual-level socioeconomic factors were influencing not only the likelihood of continuing education at the tertiary level but also a type of institution one studies at. Thus, I simultaneously analyse vertical and horizontal dimensions of inequalities in access. The expansion has not dramatically changed the differentiated access within different socioeconomic groups. However, the influence of parental education and secondary school context on continuing education has weakened. But those who have benefited the most are young people from upper service class. They not only approach near-universal access faster than other social classes but also improve their relative chances to study at the most prestigious institutions. Controlling for academic ability at the age of 15 showed that socioeconomic background continuous to matter after that age. This means that student-oriented equity policies undertaken closer to the point of transition to tertiary education have a capacity to decrease educational inequalities. Results are discussed against the background of the current higher education policy trends regarding equity in access.
The imposition of student tuition fees has proven to be one of the most divisive policy issues in the history of British higher education and is still far from resolved. The UGC operated on the basis of public funding and higher education was considered to be a public good. However, the economic austerity of the 1970s meant that the quinquennial grant that government made available started to decline. Then there were those, strongly influenced by the work of the Institute of Economic Affairs who started to insist that it was a private good and their influence grew in the years of the Thatcher Governments, especially when Sir Keith Joseph was the minister responsible for higher education. However, thanks to the opposition of Conservative MPs no fees were imposed upon home-based students in the years of Thatcher Governments. That move only took place after the 1997 Dearing Enquiry and was implemented by a Labour Government led by Tony Blair. The ceiling was initially set as a top-up fee at a maximum of £1,000 per annum, although this was raised to £3,000 after the 2004 Higher Education Act and £9,000 by the subsequent Conservative-Liberal/Democratic coalition. Initially there were manoeuvres to exempt students who chose certain subjects (STEM subjects) from the payment of fees and to preserve maintenance grants. However, these moves failed and the expectation is that the institutions will themselves make resources available to selected students, under the auspices of the Office for Fair Access, out of their fee income. The new universities have all gravitated towards charging the maximum permitted fee levels. Over time institutions have steadily increased their fees to the maximum permitted level and tuition fees remain a big political issue with the Labour Party now committed to restore public funding. There is also no doubt that the newly created Office for Students will seek ways to link fee levels to the quality of the teaching and learning process. Thus the imposition of fees will lead to a much tighter auditing of the work of the higher education institutions.
Despite increasing financial pressures on higher education systems throughout the world, many governments remain resolutely opposed to the introduction of tuition fees, and some countries and states where tuition fees have been long established are now reconsidering free higher education. This paper examines the consequences of charging tuition fees on university enrolments, equity, and proxies for institutional quality. To do so, we study the English higher education system which has, in just two decades, moved from a free college system to one in which tuition fees are among the highest in the world. Our findings suggest that England's shift has resulted in increased funding per head and rising enrolments, with no apparent widening of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. The role of fees is moderated by other key features of higher education finance which may differ across countries: in contrast to other systems with high tuition fees, the English system is distinct in that its income-contingent loan system ensures that no tuition fees are paid upfront, and provides students with comparatively generous assistance for living expenses. Still, the English experience provides an instructive case for other countries considering implementing or abolishing tuition fees.