AEC Socrates Thematic Networks Project ‘Higher Music Education in modern European Society’ (1996-2000)

Confronting Important Issues in European Higher Music Education Today

Due to a joint effort of the Utrecht School of the Arts (Faculty of Music) and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki an application was written for the establishment of a Thematic Network’s Project (TNP) for European institutions for higher music education in the framework of SOCRATES in April 1996. Originally, the TNP for Music made an independent application in the SOCRATES-programme, which was finally approved as an earmarked sub-project in the TNP for Arts Education ‘Higher Arts Education in Europe’, co-ordinated by the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA). The formal co-ordination of the Thematic Network for Music was handled by the AEC.

General aim of the project

The Thematic Networks Project for Music has followed an approach according to its global objective: ‘reinforcing European higher music education by addressing innovative subjects and topics neglected in the past, which can help to strengthen the position of institutions for higher music education in society as true cultural and educational centres, in order to provide the students better professional perspectives’.

This objective was achieved through the following three steps:

  • inventory and comparison of the current situation of European higher music education
  • research and curriculum development on crucial matters which have been chosen as a result of the inventory
  • implementation of results of research and joint curriculum development in the existing curricula. This implementation could be realised on different levels, ranging from a modification and reinforcement of existing curricula to the establishment of new elements in or even completely new curricula.

Outcomes and results of the project

A detailed overview of the then current situation of European higher music education was created through a special questionnaire, focusing on the subject area of violin teaching. Because of the limited amount of funding, the TNP for Music had to focus on one particular area of music education. The project therefore chose the subject area of violin teaching, since this is a subject, which is taught at practically every institution for higher music education in Europe. This resulted in the publication with the title ‘Caprices d’Europe’, which has been published in three languages (French, German and English). The publication provides us with a fascinating overview of educational systems for music in Europe and different approaches to violin teaching.

Furthermore, an in-depth study of relevant subjects during the second and third years of the project based on the information processed in the publication ‘Caprices d’Europe’ was executed. Through the comprehensive overview of educational systems and pedagogical approaches in ‘Caprices d’Europe’, the TNP for Music was able to identify a number of key issues in which further study was required. These issues were:

  • Continuing education in music. Being a matter largely neglected in the past, continuing education (sometimes called ‘life-long-learning’ in music) is a major topic of discussion in European higher music education. The reason for this dramatic change of thinking is the fact that most music institutions experienced a lack of connection with the employment markets. The markets, having changed strongly due to the globalisation of economies and the impact of new technologies, demand a different type of professional musician nowadays. Because of dynamic developments in the professional musical world, the demands are different than before. This has serious implications on how the musicians should be educated, not only during college education, but also after, since professionals will have to be continuously updated, keeping up with the developments in the employment market.
  • Closely linked to the subject of continuing education in music is the subject of the role of research in institutions for higher music education. Another important subject, which has been addressed very rarely in higher music education due to a strong focus on music performance in the past, research in music conservatoires will produce new approaches to artistic work, which might lead to better music performers.
  • The preparation of students for professional training in institutions for higher music education. This issue deals with problems connected to the instrumental and musical level of students at European music institutions. The TNP for Music has studied approaches on how to improve the entrance level of the students for professional music studies in Europe. Although this might not seem to be an issue for the higher education institutions, it actually is: institutions should be more in contact with the development of young musicians in the pre-college age, in an attempt to reinforce the entrance level of its students. These well-prepared music students will have better study results and, ultimately, much higher chances on the highly competitive labour market.
  • The publication of ‘Caprices d’Europe’ is a first step in the removal of obstacles for mobility of students, teachers or professionals through comparison of studies, research on the role of ECTS and the recognition of studies or diplomas.


  • A seminar on continuing professional development for musicians was organised in Zwolle for Dutch students and teachers, 19-20 June 1999.
  • A seminar was organised for SOCRATES coordinators in the field of music education, Vilnius 8-10 September 1999.
  • A seminar on continuing professional development for musicians was organised in Warsaw for Polish students and teachers, 16-17 September 1999.
  • A seminar on pre-college training was organised for representatives from French conservatoires in Paris, 14 October 2000.
  • Special TNP sessions on continuing professional development and pre-college training were organised during the AEC conference in Bucharest, 5-8 November 1999.


  • ‘Caprices d’Europe’: a study of violin curricula in European musical institutions of higher learning (not available in digital format; for a hard copy please contact the AEC office)
  • ‘Lifelong Learning’: a publication about continuing professional development in music
  • ‘Pre-college Music Training’: a publication about pre-college training in music
  • Reports from the dissemination seminars and the TNP sessions during the AEC conferences
  • A special article on the SOCRATES TNP for Music, containing detailed information on the publication ‘Caprices d’Europe’ in the Strad Magazine, a specialist magazine for musicians. This article resulted in a high number of requests from professionals from all over the world to obtain this publication.