Project on Ranking Indicators for Musical Outputs (PRIMO)

The evaluation of musical, and wider artistic, outputs is becoming a requirement of the effective operation of many conservatoires and higher arts institutions. With evaluation comes the more controversial prospect of ranking.

AEC is sceptical about ranking, but wishes to keep an open mind about any developments that might be more suited than current systems to the special characteristics of higher music education.

One such development may possibly be the U-Multirank project, supported by the European Commission (and in which AEC is NOT involved).

U-Multirank is currently in an expanded pilot phase that does not include arts subjects. It seeks to develop a varied set of indicators for measuring the performance of all universities and proposes that they be evaluated, not in a single linear hierarchy, but according only to those indicators most relevant to them – and against other institutions most closely related to them in terms of mission.

AEC has initiated a project designed to see whether there is consensus over the kinds of indicators that might bring an arts-related dimension to future ranking systems. If U-Multirank does develop to include arts subjects, such consensus will be important in giving AEC a strong voice in how this might be done. But whether or not this does happen, the results of the AEC project will address real and pressing needs currently being felt by many leaders and research managers in conservatoires.

At the end of 2011, AEC appointed a Researcher to carry out work under the supervision of the AEC Chief Executive with a view to developing a set of proposed ranking indicators appropriate to music. The plan is that his work, once completed, will be put before the membership of AEC (and, if it so chooses, AEC’s sister higher arts education association, ELIA) for reactions, refinement and approval. The Project on Ranking Indicators for Musical Outputs (PRIMO) is divided into two phases:

  • Reviewing existing attempts to produce indicators to evaluate research in the arts and considering which elements might be adopted and developed
  • Generating a set of proposals (for indicators and how they should be measured) with a specific view to testing whether it is possible to create indicators that are suited both to the wider European HE situation and to the innate character of higher music education and the institutions where it is taught

Although the full evaluation of the indicators by the memberships of AEC/ELIA would fall outside the scope of the PRIMO project, focussed feedback on the proposals from key operatives within the field will be an integral part of the second stage of the project.

It is envisaged that an important area of focus will be exploration of what, for the purposes of the arts, might be meaningful equivalents of the concepts of ‘peer review’ and ‘publication’, widely recognised as indicators of quality in scientific disciplines, and even in the Humanities.

Although the aim of the project was to find consensus around a set of possible indicators, one possible outcome was that it serves to demonstrate that such consensus is not currently obtainable. If so, it would still serve a valuable function in giving evidence to back up this view.