The popular music performance undergraduate degree is a growing area within UK higher education. These courses carry a vocational emphasis and are popular with students looking to establish professional performing careers. As such, they are often marketed as an intermediary step towards this aspiration but, despite their popularity, there has been little critical review into their effectiveness. This article, based on doctoral research conducted by the author, draws on semi-structured interviews conducted with 12 second- and third-year undergraduates studying popular music performance-based courses. The article presents data and analysis concerning the motivations for study, perceptions of vocational value and the concerns around establishing professional careers. Concerns across four key areas are identified: (a) issues of negative public perception; (b) problematic conceptions of the popular music industries (PMI); (c) the value of practical experience over and above qualifications; and (d) negative narratives concerning developments in digital technologies and their effect on career opportunities. Implications from the article include the need for higher education providers (HEPs) to challenge students’ misconceptions concerning professional careers in the new popular music industries.
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- higher education
- popular music