The Negotiated Project

The Negotiated Project is an elective module that offers students the opportunity to pursue creative projects where learning outcomes, assessment mode and form of presentation are all up for negotiation.

Outcome Examples of projects

The range of projects carried out by students has been extraordinary. Many have been very successful and have even exceeded the staff’s expectations. Students have gone on to develop distinct performing practices that would have been almost impossible to imagine inside taught modules, and from there to further study up to Doctoral level. Examples of projects from the School of Music include:

  • a study of surround sound and multichannel recording to create immersive soundscapes and audio envelopment experiences
  • a principal study composer being assessed on the development of resources for musical improvisation
  • a student of Contemporary Performance Practice assessed on the production of dance music based on field recordings in disused industrial spaces
  • a student of Contemporary Performance Practice combining choreography and musical composition based on location sound, documented on video
  • film music composition
  • a drag performance lecture on drag culture
  • a soundscape collaboration with visual artist/performer for a gallery installation
  • a principal study saxophonist being assessed on leading an amateur choir
  • a principal study pianist being assessed on their directing skills with an amateur musical theatre group
  • monologue preparation for a School of Music student to audition for a second degree in Acting
  • work placement in a woodwind repair shop, documented through a reflective blog

Supporting the development of autonomous artists

The module underlines the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s commitment to the support and development of the autonomous artist, and a faith in students’ ability to imagine what teachers and management cannot. It also reflects a belief in assessment for learning and an acknowledgment that students learn in different ways.


Description A flexible module

Bachelor students can choose to take the module for either 5 or 10 ECTS credits. The number of credits is related to the scope of the study, and this forms part of the negotiation. In 2017-18, 138 students across the RCS took one of these modules and 2018-19, 129 students have elected to take negotiated projects.

In the 5 ECTS module, students get 2 hours of negotiation with a tutor and in the 10 ECTS module, students get 4 hours.

The Negotiation

The negotiation happens in a tutorial with a member of staff. Usually a student will bring an idea for a project to the tutor. They then discuss the project together, with the aim of clarifying what the student wants to do and what he or she hopes to learn.

For example, a student may want to arrange some music, rehearse and record it. He or she may choose to be assessed on arranging skills, recording skills, skills in leading a rehearsal, performing skills, or some combination of these. Essential is also a discussion on who from staff might best support the project.

Assessment supporting the learning process

Based on the student’s learning goals, student and staff negotiate what aspect of the project should be assessed and how to do the assessment. The student can choose between five options for learning outcomes and assessment modes, based on what the project mainly is.

  1. Research paper – assessed based on a written research paper
  2. Practice Based Research – assessed based on a written research paper and a practical demonstration or performance
  3. Performance – assessed based on a practical demonstration or performance
  4. Collaborative – assessed based on a reflective statement, portfolio or other documentary evidence
  5. Reflective – assessed based on a reflective statement, portfolio or other documentary evidence

In this way, the assessment supports what the student hopes to learn, with feedback focusing on those elements in particular. Another student with the same overall project could therefore be assessed differently in order to focus on other skills.

Rationale for starting the module

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland revised the curricula for all undergraduate programmes in 2012. While there was a new mandatory module in collaborative practice for all first year students, there were no single follow-up, taught module available in subsequent years that offered sufficient flexibility to allow students to pursue creative and cross-disciplinary projects. Furthermore, to run a number of taught modules to cover the range of creative projects students might imagine and a range of assessment modes would be both expensive and cumbersome. This was the rationale for instead offering the Negotiated Project.

Practical advice Allow time for the negotiation

  • Allow time for the negotiation, project development and revision of the negotiation. The importance of support for students during this process should not be underestimated.
  • Ensure that all staff involved in the negotiation process have sufficient understanding of learning outcomes and assessment modes in order to ensure clarity for the students, supervisors and assessors.
  • Try to ensure that similar projects are compared for parity
  • Make sure that the template form is clearly annotated so that students understand what information they need to include. Please contact the Royal Conservatoire if you are interested in this template!
  • Have an arena where students can present the outcomes of their projects