A leading city musician has hit out at the closure of Oxford Brookes University’s music department, saying he would not now be working in the industry without having studied there.

Nick Fowler, who has played with the bands Goldrush, The Dreaming Spires and St Etienne, condemned the academic cuts on the eve of a homecoming show with Oxford legend Gaz Coombes, with whom he plays guitar.

Oxford Mail: Nick Fowler, right, playing with Gaz Coombes' bandNick Fowler, right, playing with Gaz Coombes' band (Image: Tim Hughes)

Nick Fowler, right, playing with Gaz Coombes' band. Picture by Tim Hughes

Supergrass star Gaz, who lives in Wheatley, plays a solo show at the New Theatre Oxford tomorrow (Sunday, December 10), with a band of largely Oxford musicians, including Mr Fowler, from near Wantage; Garo Nahoulakian, from near Abingdon; and drummer Mike Monaghan from Carterton.

The band have just returned from Australia, where they performed a stadium tour as main support for Robbie Williams.

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Mr Fowler was an undergraduate on the university’s music course from 1999 to 2002, and returned to do his masters when he was 35.

He said: “I felt a real sense of sadness when I heard the news. The kind of support and nurturing I was given at Brookes really set me on my way to doing what I do now.

“I also had a sense of deja vu. When I was doing my undergraduate degree, the department was threatened with closure too. As students, we all wrote to the management and eventually the decision was overturned.

“It’s weird having it come full circle like this. It’s such a strange thing that an institution in Oxford, a city with a rich musical heritage, would want to shut down a place that has had so many great musicians come through it.

“Music is one of the things Brookes does best, and it just seems like a backwards decision to cut it.”

Given the overturned decision when he was at the university, Mr Fowler feels there’s hope for the current students at Brookes, who are protesting against the course closure.

He added: “We won the right to keep it open then, and I’m sure the students can do the same now.

“I think there’s hope for them. Brookes has a responsibility to look at the full spectrum of what it offers.

"I really think it’s important the vice chancellor knows that students want their institution to be a holistic place of study.

“I, and other musicians I know, have benefitted greatly from this course, and the staff who taught me I couldn’t speak highly enough of.”

Oxford Brookes said the university is experiencing increasing financial challenges due to inflation, flat student fees for UK undergraduates for over a decade, and increases in staff pay and employer pension contributions.

READ MORE: Gaz Coombes flies back from Robbie Williams tour for long-awaited Oxford hometown show

“As a result, the university has taken the difficult decision to begin a consultation about reducing staff posts in some specific academic areas, ad to make other, pay-related staff cost savings across the university,” a Brookes spokesperson said.

Riled at the prospect of music lecturers and practitioners losing their jobs, Mr Fowler said: “It’s a betrayal. All the lecturers I worked with were so supportive and dedicated. It’s a betrayal to make today’s lecturers redundant.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1