Audio Education (part 4)
Quality of education
Those that can, do - those that cant, teach. This is an old saying that has a certain ring of truth to it. For instance, if you were running a recording studio and found it difficult to meet a £500 per week break even point, then you might easily be tempted into running five day courses for ten people paying £50 each. Its easy money isnt it? Similarly, you might be a head of department in a college of further education. You are losing student numbers from your traditional courses and need something more exciting to bring the crowds back in. Maybe you could divert a couple of lecturers from related topics and start up a course in recording engineering? You might be able to set up a studio for you and the lecturers to play in after hours.
Call me a cynic if you like, but I am very sure that attitudes like this secretly exist in the private and public sectors of education. But looking more on the positive side, I feel that people who started with doubtful attitudes have by now either gone to the wall or they have developed a real love for helping people get on in their ambitions. Even so, I would strongly recommend that you try and look for peoples motivations and see whether those who run the course you are considering investing part of your life in are mainly interested in the profit motive, or running a hobby department, or providing a genuine education in sound engineering.
Facilities and staff
I said earlier that of all types of sound engineering, recording engineering is the most difficult to provide a course for. This is because the equipment is so expensive and you need so much of it, and the facilities have to be spread thinly among all the students on the course. Its all very well for a course provider to claim that they have a state of the art 24 track studio, but if they have to share that among fifty students, how much hands on time are you going to get? The only way to learn how to record is to do it yourself so the hands on time is vitally important. In fact I would go so far as to say that you could divide the course fee by the number of hours spent in the studio, and then by the number of people on the course, and derive a value-for-money rating.
It is common for private companies to offer facilities of a very high standard, but the fees you have to pay are high too. The fees at colleges would be high too if they were not subsidised, but they tend to be hamstrung by lack of funds for investment. Whereas a private company may invest according to current conditions and the return they are making on their capital, a college department probably has to go cap in hand for any cash to equip, or re-equip, to a management that would prefer to encourage courses that dont cost anything like as much to run.
Facilities are important, but of no lesser importance are the staff who are hopefully going to impart their vast knowledge of the subject to you in as interesting a manner as possible. I would recommend any course provider to offer a combination of expertise. There must be input from qualified technical people and from practical types too. If I was told that my lecturers would include people who used to work in manufacturing, ex-sound engineers, and visiting lecturers who are currently employed in the industry, I would be impressed.