RNCM Wins Fourth Times Higher Education Award

We’re beyond proud to say that the RNCM picked up its fourth Times Higher Education Award last night after winning the Technological and Digital Innovation of Year category for our response to teaching and performance during the pandemic.

Widely referred to as the ‘Oscars of higher education’, the THE Awards are the biggest celebration in the UK HE calendar. This year, more than 550 entries were received from individuals, teams and institutions across the UK, with over 70 making the shortlist.

John Gill, Editor of THE, said that following the challenges of the pandemic the entries demonstrated how the sector had ‘focused on the core missions of universities to deliver world-changing research, life-changing teaching, and all the other ways in which they engage and support communities, regions and countries.’

After closing our doors to staff, students and the public in March 2020, the RNCM – like many conservatoires worldwide – had to quickly innovate to ensure that the high-quality tuition and performance opportunities we offer to students could continue online.

Larry Goves, Head of Practice Research and Deputy Head of Composition, said: ‘Thankfully, the RNCM had a head start in addressing this. We had been leading a project with various HE and industry partners, Ensemble+, to develop distance learning and teaching optimised for music. We had already developed portable systems for this, and the College’s flagship music technology studio, including a Meyer Constellation Acoustic System, was already in the final stages of development. 

RNCM Zoom Room

‘Harnessing the experience from Ensemble+, the RNCM was able to move online quickly and efficiently. In no time at all we had optimised online environments, developed hybrid classrooms including in all our large venues, and implemented specially designed systems for online teaching for pianists and percussionists. Other innovations included separated rooms with connecting windows and live amplified sound allowing safe high-quality woodwind, brass, and vocal teaching.’

During this time the RNCM also responded with a range of public and community building projects and events. This included a broadcast quality online concert series, immensely popular masterclasses and informal concerts simultaneously streamed to multiple social media platforms, and a series of eleven hour-long radio broadcasts designed to keep our students, staff, and friends in touch with each other during lockdown.

Larry, who described it as a ‘huge honour’ to collect the award on behalf of the RNCM, added: ‘The legacy of this work is extraordinary, with blended teaching continuing at the RNCM, technology embedded in the programme like never before, and a new confidence from our students in honing technology skills. The RNCM’s Studio 8 allows teaching, research, and artistic practice in acoustics, surround sound/immersive audio, and low-latency video conferencing. 

RNCM Tutorial Room with separating glass

‘The whole response was the quintessential team effort with colleagues and students at their most proactive and generous. However, this award is for technological innovation, and more than anyone else belongs to the RNCM’s Technical and Sound and Video Team. Their herculean effort meant the student experience was as positive as possible during a time when so much music making was decimated. Central to this are Nick Ware, Stephen Guy, Django Pither, David Coyle, David Dickson, William Minty, Barney Cunningham, Paul Bannatyne, and Dominic Chater.’

This is the fourth THE Award the College has received to date, sitting alongside Widening and Participation Initiative of the Year (2020), Outstanding International Student Strategy (2016), and Excellence and Innovation in the Arts (2015).

18 November 2022