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Exploring issues in categorisation of higher music education courses through FOI surveys of gender demographics in UK higher education institutions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2022

Stephen Tatlow*
Department of Music and Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK


A common conclusion drawn from publicly available Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data releases is that Higher Music Education (HME) courses have a predominantly male population. However, HESA data has key issues when examining HME courses: which courses are reported as ‘music’ courses to HESA; how do universities decide which courses are ‘music’ courses; how many different topics are contained within the umbrella of ‘music’ courses? To address questions of gender representation in HME, universities in the UK were approached with Freedom of Information Act requests for the gender demographics of student populations on “music-related” courses. Information was gained on 3456 courses populations between 2014 and 2020, which was categorised by the subject of study. Six core undergraduate topics were identified: generic music degrees (female bias), degrees combining music and technology (male bias), degrees combining music and business (no gender bias), degrees on popular music (male bias), degrees combining music and theatre (female bias) and major conservatoire courses (no gender bias). No area was accurately represented by HESA data, and gender representation varied significantly between areas. These findings have implications for discussions of gender representation in HME across the UK.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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